The Central Railway Harbour Line stop at Chembur is a few kilometres from the residence of engineering consultant Vikram R and corporate employee Deepa A. But the railway feels much closer thanks to a painting of the exterior of a train on a portion of their living room wall. The indoor mural depicts commuters standing at the entrance of the Ladies and General first and second class compartments. The drawings are bright and cartoonish, but there’s a streak of realism in the form of a betel-nut stain that slashes across one of the coaches. “If we had a longer wall, we would have also captured the luggage compartment,” said the self-effacing couple who commissioned the painting (they refused to be photographed and jointly replied to questions).
The painting makes good use of the wall, which is 27.2 ft in length and 6.5 ft in height, in paying tribute to a typical element of Mumbai life. “The local train is the true icon of Mumbai and celebrates the indomitable spirit of its citizens,” the couple said. “The local is one of the most democratic and egalitarian places to be, throwing together the fisher woman and slumdweller along with the suited-booted stockbroker.”
A group of final-year students at the Sir JJ School of Art, who were recommended by their contractor’s daughter, Meera Tank, took two weeks to do the job. “We did the initial artwork on computers and then got down to sketching and painting on the wall,” said Sheena Laha, who worked on the project along with Anagha Meshram, Meenal Amburle and Esha Karekar. Between 12 and 15 junior students also dropped in to help paint the surface. The wall has been painted to last, which can’t be said about the popularity of the railway network, pointed out the couple. “Given the inhuman travel conditions and newly emerging alternative modes of transport, who knows how long the legacy of the local train might endure,” they said. “This wall captures and preserves a unique reality.”
By Nandini Ramnath on April 13 2012 9.26am
Photos by Amit Chakravarty