Painter power transforms city's dark side

| 12 Jun 2018

Peter Hutchison

Mumbai's slums are getting a colorful makeover thanks to an organization that aims to change how people perceive deprived areas in India's financial capital.

Volunteers have transformed some 12,000 homes across four different areas in the city of 20 million people into a bright visual spectacles.

Artists have also created several elaborate murals as part of the initiative by non-profit group Chal Rang De, which means "Let's Go Paint."

"We wanted to change the way people look at slums in Mumbai, in India," organization co-founder Dedeepya Reddy explains. "When you say 'slums' all you think about are the negative things, the dirtiness. That becomes a reflection of the people who live there, though it's not the case."

She adds: "They are really amazing people -- very happy individuals -- and we wanted their localities to be reflections of who they are."

Around 40 percent of Mumbai's population live in areas that most urban planners would designate as slums. These settlements are typically cramped and their structures often dilapidated. Invariably, they lack access to proper toilets.

Chal Rang De was born last year when Reddy had the idea to paint the outside of homes in the gloomy hilltop slum village of Asalpha in the north of the city.

Some 750 volunteers answered a call on social media to help brighten the area by painting homes in a rainbow of colors.

People in the city now even refer to the area as Mumbai's "Positano" after the Italian town which has buildings with standard but vibrant facades.

The group then turned their attentions to three neighboring settlements in the northern suburb of Khar, and almost 3,000 volunteers turned up to add color over two weekends last month.

"It gives so much hope that people don't care about getting their hands dirty and want to do something for society," says Reddy. "It's so simple -- you take a paintbrush and feel like you can change the world."

The 31-year-old Reddt says residents are initially skeptical when she approaches them with the idea of bright paint jobs, but they are quickly convinced.

"There are now lots of colors in our area," 30-year-old Sanjay Naresh Gaikar says outside his newly painted home. "It looks like something new and is like a gift for us."

Mumbai's slums flood during the annual monsoon from June to September. Seen from above, large areas of the city turn blue as residents place tarpaulins over their corrugated iron roofs to try to keep out heavy rains.

So Chal Rang De has teamed up with a waterproofing company to lay special material that will prevent leakages for up to five years.

"We are also coloring the top of that material so when you fly you will see a very different kind of Mumbai," says Reddy.

After the monsoon ends Chal Rang De will start planning ways to transform its next slum.

"When you see something that looks like an eyesore to some people it looks like a canvas to us," Reddy says. "We want to color the entire country."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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