Whoah! It was quite unexpected the response that I got on facebook for the makeover campaign. I didn’t want to pursue journalists over this, but I did eventually, after realizing that the NMMT officials ought to know about the deteriorated condition at the depot and the state of the employees and I hoped that they would be shamed in some way.
After thinking a bit about the theme for the painting, I decided not to do it the Wall Project style with graphic- heavy work as it might not resonate with the people for whom it is intended- the NMMT drivers and conductors. A friend of mine was dicey till the last moment, whether he is going to come or not, and finally he did come, bringing along 3 other friends. This was great! Finally totaling with 10 people, this was looking like a people’s campaign! These four had got some designs and ideas that made the room look really great.
This was promoted as primarily NetImpact Mumbai’s work where I am a member and all the funds were raised through the group (also using some last minute emails sounding like threats), as me and the group’s lead didn’t have much choice but to scrap the project unless we raised the money. Netimpact is a group of people, whether professionals or students, who are interested in doing a bit more for the social sector than the very basic- volunteering. They use their respective skills to do something worthwhile for the NGO and filling the gaps. This is the Mumbai chapter of which I am a member.
Coming back to the painting, the first painter who was going to bring labourers to do the initial scrubbing work had quoted a very high price, Rs.20,000 but another one quoted Rs.6000 including everything, the material required, the labour everything! I was delighted and we had some extra money raised which we used for lunch etc for the volunteers.
Luckily, most of the people didn’t really think about being a Navi Mumbaikar or Mumbaikar before contributing money. One of the person’s in the group to my surprise had stated that he cannot contribute the money as he is from Mumbai and the activity is going to be conducted in Navi Mumbai.
It was not easy to make people understand why we are doing this project as this property belongs to the government as it is their job to keep it well maintained and look after the infrastructure. I had initially thought of the idea to be a bit experimental, to see whether it will work, will it really do good? Etc. we wanted to show our appreciation to the hard-working employees of the NMMT who deserved a clean and hygienic place to rest, sleep and have lunch. And I actually saw this as doable and something fun. You can see the status of the room with chipped walls, dirty corners and overall, a ramshackle structure. I stay in Airoli, Navi Mumbai and used to pass by this location of bus-depot, sector 3 quite a lot of times. Since the last 20 years, the state was the same. I wanted to know whether we, the citizens, the community could do something.
Some of the conductors themselves suggested that we could feed some hungry children, pay for poor students fees etc, but I couldn’t explain to them well enough, why I thought doing this was important as well. I already support an NGO which educates disadvantaged children. This is to show that we care, even though the government doesn’t.
I targeted social media to spread the word about this. Before the project, not many had responded to me tagging them on faceboook, my status updates and the Navi Mumbai Makeover Campaign community page that I had formed on facebook. Everyday, somebody happened to notice the page, ‘liked it’ but never responded in terms of participation or money. After the campaign when I uploaded the pics, the scene was very different. People, I am guessing, related to the pictures well and unless shown visually what we managed to do before and after to the place they couldn’t envision how to do it and why. This was somebody’s observation that they related to me. I think its very true. My album posted on my profile and on the community received a stupendous response from people, encouraging, lauding the efforts of all involved, loving the idea etc. the response was mostly from the friends of the four people that one of my school friends brought.
Later I realized that to expect facebook as a medium to get people into the action mode, actually respond to your requests and inspire action and on-ground involvement is a very unrealistic expectation. This is not possible from a platform where people simply check out to find out what their friends are doing, who went where and to look for some interesting stories etc. You can’t expect involvement of any kind. I only got a response in terms of participation from people with whom I had connected once or twice before to tell them about this campaign and asked them to come, or some members from Netimpact who thought they ought to come.
This was mostly a one-woman show as I was staying in Airoli and knew the restaurants, had taken the permission myself so I had the letter, knew the painters, supervised them, helped my friends. I am tired of taking up roles like these time and again but they always come to me. It would have been a help to have someone else also do the running around with me and share major responsibilities but cant blame people as everybody had a job except me…hahaha… and so all these responsibilities automatically came to me.
Without the team effort that went in, this entire event wouldn’t have been such a success. The display of enthusiasm that existed there was contagious and I am glad this spirit was there. Why I think this initiative was a bit different was because, it combined two things, one painting on the walls with your creativity unleased which is quite a rage these days and youngsters love to be a part of this and doing this to give back to someone, people who have been denied a simple hygienic place to rest. Had it been only cleaning up and showing our appreciation, the event would have been a bit colourless.
The thing that really dogged me and later ceased to matter actually was the response that I got from the NMMT officials. They had refused to meet me, some of my letters requesting permission never reached the department concerned, the officers were constantly were on leave. They spoke rudely on phone and I had to do all the follow-up. The Estate Manager after I eventually got his mobile number kept postponing and cancelling our meeting everyday, and I didn’t want to pursue this without meeting in person. They were taking me too much for granted I felt.
My saving grace was his PA, Mr. Krishna Patil who was very warm to me, understood the idea and was asking his boss to meet me time and again. In-between I was very close to giving this up and giving my time for more constructive activities where I would be earning, but the fact that I had already spent 2 or more months running around in Colaba, Mulund and Turbhe to get permissions kept me going. After giving so much of energy to this project , I felt I shouldn’t give up without getting to the end of the chapter. I give credit to Mr. Krishna Patil for making this a success. Wish there were more people like him in these institutions.
We all loved to see the lit up faces of the driver and conductors, sometimes 20-30 of them coming in one day, to peep into- us youngsters giving a facelift to their room. They came to drink water in the room from a very disgusting tap, which I am presuming is potable water and then were curious. They felt very happy after we told them why we are doing this and I just loved the expressions on their faces. There were some really nice souls who kept thanking us till the very end of the day while we were wrapping up.
This, our end goal partially reached, finally makes all the effort, totally worthwhile!
Also we got coverage in newspapers like Midday, Maharashtra Times, DNA Navi Mumbai to say the least.
I am pretty much undecided about whether we should replicate this somewhere else too, but that would be a bit too much I think. I see it essentially as the government’s job- maintaining and cleaning up their property, providing decent place to the employees and I only wanted to send a message. I would rather spread news about this event far and up to the higher echelons in NMMT that they should really take notice! I am getting good guidance right now as to how to take up this till the top thanks to newer dynamic people coming in, in Netimpact and lets see how it will go.
Up till then, I am open to suggestions and ideas whether we should take this up in another place again. This was an event worth remembering!
This is a short compilation of the video based on pictures from the event…so check it out!