Story of a Storyteller

 

The Landscape

Being the financial capital of India, Mumbai is the Home for people from various backgrounds, classes, castes and religions. Mumbai is the land of opportunity, fortune. Dreams and Bollywood. The cityscape dramatically changes and shocks one with its contrasts within a few meters of distance. The architectural coexistence of vertical sky-scrapers and horizontal slums can make one’s romanticism about the city grate with the harsh reality of the people struggling to live in the city, without knowing how they will live tomorrow.

The lure of Mumbai brings migrants from other cities, towns and villages; the population rose from 12.5 million (1991) to 21 million (2011) and while migrants with white-collar jobs struggle with space issues in cramped flats, almost 60% of the population land in the tertiary sector, or remain jobless and live in its numerous slums. In the 19th century, slums grew around mills and places of employment, now they grow in any empty space. The abject living conditions, crime rates and insecurity in these slums are horrifying, but given the horizontal layout, a sense of community and neighborhood prevails.

Many of the rehabilitation schemes of the government fail because slum dwellers are shifted to vertical buildings which bring about a sense of alienation in their lives; the apathy of policy-makers towards water, sanitation, health and education in this new infrastructure do not make their lives any better resulting in a detachment and un-belonging  with their lived spaces. Often the unemployed youth spend their days in the old slum areas and use these rehabilitation areas as night –shelters. This lack of attachment and care (both from the policy-makers and dwellers) results in unhygienic conditions. Further, as escapism from their realities, Bollywood provides an alternative fantasy world, a web of dreams and desires; the dwellers do not always feel comfortable to speak about their own lives.

My visit to such sites and interactions with the local people made me conceptualize this workshop to explore the possibilities of making them engage with their realities, to be able to speak about their own circumstances, to perhaps think differently. Through drawing, painting, story-telling and performance, these methods of art and visual literacy are my endeavors to facilitate transformation.

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