What once stood as a library, lined with books for the spiritually inclined, is now an empty room with only a few newspapers for company.
The Reading Room on Sangam Road, which nowadays is rented out for functions, was recently used by students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to exhibit 10 pieces of art representing Shivajinagar.
Titled Igle Ivagle (right here, right now), the exhibits worked with the concept of ‘terrative’, wherein location serves as an integral component of the narrative.
The pieces displayed the history of Shivajinagar through the people who work and reside there. I Painted this by Aaakash Girish Doshi was a short film on Ruben, who paints signboards in all languages, despite not knowing what the letters mean. Anwesha Chakraborty’s Businesswomen of Shivajinagar was a collection of personalised postcards with quotations of working women. “I thought Shivajinagar was pretty male-dominated, given all the mechanical shops but I realised that it’s not true. These women run businesses of their own, some of them are the sole breadwinners of their family,” said Chakraborthy.
“For us, the important thing was that the students be involved in the place. We had to reject all their initial ideas since they were mostly about how they could interact with the locals. Our role was to show them how to create meaningful art about the area that arose from their interactions,” said Tahireh Lal, one of the project faculty at Srishti.
Library with no books by Aliasger Dhariwala was a take on the Reading Room itself and its use for activities other than its intended purpose. Vinaya Nagesh, a fourth year student narrated Bili Baka, the white heron, a mythical hero whose fascination with bikes mimics that of Shivajinagar’s many men. Jishna Iyer’s short film Four Missing Idols had the main characters providing a running commentary on Shivajinagar as they casually walked around wearing masks of Gods displayed on temples in the area. A 1,000 kilos of wood a day, a short documentary by Madhav Chatterjee and Janvi Karwai showed how wood collected from different areas of the city are sent for use in funeral pyres.
A visitor to the exhibition, Tanvi said, “As a psychological counsellor, I deal with stories of people everyday and it’s nice to see the expression of the positive side when you see so much negative, that too in such an aesthetic way. These stories need to be heard or they’ll be lost.” The three-day exhibition concluded on December 8.