This morning, I helped fix a road in Malleshwaram.
I volunteered with The Ugly Indian and picked up a paint brush and went to one of the dirtiest, stinkiest streets on 8th main road – the road that connects the main road to Renaissance Park and Brigade Gateway. It’s a small road, which is always shady because of the trees towering over it. It’s a beautiful road. It ends at a railway crossing, and trains pass frequently, maybe twice an hour. The sad part is, people get bored waiting for the train. So they get off and go take a leak, spit around just for fun and stick disgusting Kannada movie posters on the walls. One of those movies’ names was Pungidaasa. I don’t want to speak of that further. Ick!
All credit for the now pretty road goes to my sister. She has been planning this for more than two months, inspired by seeing pictures of The Ugly Indian’s work on Facebook. She is the social work types and just the HR work in office won’t suffice for her. So she actually got in touch with The Ugly Indian, clicked pictures of the road and sent it to them and got them to agree to help out. She took print outs and put them on all notice boards a work and mailed those who’d be interested. In a way, this must have made her feel a sense of achievement. Even if she doesn’t feel it, I’ll feel it for her. Every time I ride on that road and see the beautifully painted walls and the clean road, I will know that it is only because of Su that people can walk on that road and breathe clean air at the same time.
Just for this, I woke up in Jayanagar at 6 in the morning and rushed to Malleswaram to be there, to participate. By the time I reached, they had already done some cleaning and were just getting started with the paint work. There were around 25 people, right from 6-year-olds to 60-year-olds, all sweating it out to have a clean neighbourhood. While some scraped posters off the wall, some walked around with small paint buckets and paint-blotched brushes in their hands, and some sat in what was garbage until half an hour ago, dusting the ground and cleaning off the grime.
I’ll admit I’m the kind that wouldn’t like to get my hands too dirty. I even cringe if I have to clean the table after dinner. Yes, I’m horrible like that. But I overcame that a little today. As I painted the wall, standing close to it, thinking how many people had peed there, how many people had gotten rid of their wet, rotten and stinky garbage there, I was disgusted in the beginning, but overcame it eventually. What matters is, it’s clean now and we won’t let it get dirty ever again.
What I liked about it was that it was so much fun, to stand next to a stranger and paint a wall. It builds a sense of community. Also, I always fancied graffiti but I’ve never had the kind of talent. So this is what I settled for. I left a heart-shaped gap in the blue Pungidaasa poster and fascinated little children until they grouped around me and gaped in awe of “Sunayana aunty’s sister’s masterpiece.” I was their artistic hero that morning.
This was only until The Ugly Indian squad came and stood behind me and said to not leave any patches and “paint it completely.” Oh well.
It was interesting to also see the reactions of passers by. While one guy commented, “People these days do anything to be on TV.” Another kinder-hearted person, said “You guys are doing a great job!” Other people wanted to know just what on earth is going on.
Nice people or not, I had a fun time anyway, and it was totally worth it waking up that early and riding 18 km to do it, despite having to go to work in Koramangala after. I want to ask all of you to help around in your area, not for your road’s sake or anyone else’s sake. Do it for you. Do it to feel good about yourself. Do it to leave your mark in the city.