Thursday, 9 April 2015

Traffic stoppers of Dharavi

Those of us who belong to the supposedly privileged and educated class are often oblivious to the trials and tribulations of people who are less fortunate than us. However there are certain circumstances, events, opportunities and in this case a certain kind of love(Sneha) that comes along and gives us a chance to rectify this. That’s exactly what happened to me when I came across this picture of Nirmala Panjabi in 'The Better India'. My love for beautiful things compelled me to stop and take notice of the woman behind this gorgeous sari who otherwise might have never crossed my radar.

Meet Nirmala Panjabi, 40, who is wearing this vibrant pure silk green sari with a patchwork ‘that boldly declares- ‘Don’t touch me!’. Nirmala made this Sari herself and then modeled it for a special photo shoot. There are many others like Nirmala who with the help of experts and designers have created beautiful pieces of art like sculptures, installations and pictures among other things.

The organization that is facilitating this is a mumbai based NGO -SNEHA
"Dharavi Biennale by SNEHA(Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action) is a three year art + health + recycling festival with a series of several standalone workshops (which they call Art Boxes). It is the sequel to Dekha Undekha. The overarching theme is recycling: artworks use recycled materials and address the health effects of recycled behaviour. It gives emerging local artists the opportunity to consolidate their conceptual, practical and leadership skills, bring in new participants, engage more deeply with health issues, and emphasize sustainability. At the end of two years, these activities converge into an exhibition."

 The largest slum area in Asia -Dharavi in Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures . The Dharavi Biennale is aimed at the people living in these slums. It is a collaboration between artists and activists to increase awareness about public health and also develop relevant artworks. Most of the women here are emotionally, physically and verbally abused. SNEHA conducts a series of workshops with these women to teach them new skills and plan activities that give them the courage and opportunity to talk about their problems, thus empowering them to fight injustice and violence.

Read more about Sneha and Dharavi Biennale here and here.
In my experience art has the power to heal ones soul and the process of creating beautiful things forces one to think positively. Art forces us to stop and take notice of the small joys in life and be grateful for all the beautiful things that were created for men and women to enjoy. My overwhelming urge, this little bug in me that motivates me to create and explore, has proven to be my greatest ally and never fails to give me a shot of enthusiasm in times of emotional crisis. At times painting with water colors has even cured me of my migraines.

So this is how love (SNEHA) and my love for art and design made it possible for me to take a peek into the world of the spirited and talented people of Dharavi. The more I read about the Dharavi Biennale and the people of Dharavi, the more I found myself drawn to them and their stories.Their stories resonate with my own sentiments with regard to issues of verbal, physical and emotional abuse and I realize I am no different from them.

Realizing that a woman living in the largest slum area in Asia might actually have the same problems and passions as I do, left me inspired and humbled at the same time. These kind of inclusive events and activities with people from the other end of the spectrum may turn out to be mutually beneficial and aid in our personal growth.This initiative by SNEHA is questioning the status quo and  gearing up to bring about a paradigm shift in our social structure.  This confluence of art, music, theatre, public health awareness programs and recycling workshops may very well turn out to be the stepping stone for the creation of a universal religion-the religion of love(SNEHA).
Reference &Images