Mussoorie, A world-renowned Goan artist is in town sketching larger than life portraits of faceless, nameless heroes, on drab walls across the hill station. Under the Hilldaari movement banner this artist has embarked on a first of its kind effort to celebrate the contribution of Waste Professionals to the town.
A white background, some as large as 25 feet, come alive with human portraits made with charcoal. Aptly titled ‘Deewaron Par Dastak,’ the project is an attempt to generate awareness and empathy towards the contribution and rights of different kinds of Waste handlers, including household waste collectors, sweepers, rag- pickers and sanitation workers.
Over a month now and fifty three year old Harshada Kerkar from the Museum of Goa Foundation armed with white paint and charcoal has been learning about Waste Professionals in town. Clicking photographs of these handful men and women, she then brings them alive on walls. ‘These Waste professionals have been tirelessly working for our community for years, but they seldom get the respect they deserve. There are Waste collectors who have been in the profession for twenty years, and who now suffer acute pain in the knees because of traversing on steep slopes. Some families have been in the profession for multiple generations. My art is but an appeal to be empathetic to their needs and rights of the community,’ Harshada adds.
Curious locals and tourists have also chipped in at various spots assisting Harshada in completing some of these artworks, which can take upto 2 to 3 days depending on their size. ‘Initially people thought that I was sketching the portrait of a Godman, a politician or a film star. Many people expressed their disbelief on learning that these are portraits of Waste professionals. I believe that this experience was a knock on the gates (or rather walls) of their imagination, opening newer avenues to ideas of heroism,’ she believes.
Krishna Devi, an aging household Waste collector, and one of the subjects of the portraits on the Kulri wall, gleamingly shares, “my portrait on the busy Mall road has made me proud, and has instilled in me a hope for a more dignified and respectful life.”
Arvind Shukla, Project Lead, Hilldaari also remarked how the contribution of Waste professionals, over the past six months, has been phenomenal in their aim of making Mussoorie clutter-free. ‘It is because of the efforts of Waste professionals and volunteers, and the partnership with KEEN and Municipal Co-operation, Mussoorie that the project has been able to achieve and maintain 80% source segregation in 8 wards across town. Deewaron Par Dastak was a kick- start to our next phase, to improve the economic and social life chances of the Waste worker community,’ he signs off.