Artist Rouble Nagi’s initiative ‘Misaal Mumbai’ aims to transform city's slums through art
A year spent indoors. Cramped spaces with bare inches. Slum-dwellers had a difficult time this past year. From facing a severe economic crunch, exacerbated by the closure of schools, there was suddenly the added responsibility to entertain and adequately educate children at home. But they had help at hand. Artist Rouble Nagi’s initiative ‘Misaal Mumbai’ addressed this need. And there was something bright and colourful to look forward to every day. After literally covering Dharavi with its many hues, the initiative with the support of MP Meenakshi Lekhi began travelling across India’s slums.
From Kashmir to Hyderabad, the renamed project—Misaal India—has covered plenty of territory before landing in the capital city of Delhi. As an enthusiastic two-year-old with notebook and pencil in tow, heads to an art workshop helmed by Nagi in Delhi in the bitter January cold, you realise how much she has achieved. In Delhi, Nagi conducts art enrichment classes on a daily basis, and often invites others to collaborate and contribute. Working in tandem with Queen’s Brigade—a women’s networking community—founded by Heena Sodhi Khera, she strives to encourage women to pursue their unique capabilities and helps them realise their potential.
The community conducts workshops and offers creative ventures aimed at the holistic wellness of women. With their individual magnanimous visions, the collaboration was a natural one for the Delhi chapter. Undeterred by the extreme cold and rain or fears of the pandemic, a handful of Queen’s Brigade members accompanied Nagi to the Swami Vivekananda Marg Basti in Chanakyapuri. Braving the elements, with a waterproof tarp acting as their literal seat of learning for the day, participants gathered to watch a special performance conceptualised by Alma Dhingra of Alma’s Story Time and Khera.
This was followed by a musical performance. The workshop ended with a calming session of meditation for the children. As some of them danced and others posed for pictures, the sheer delight on each child’s face was apparent to everyone present. As for the parents, it was a moment for silent gratitude and relief.
Nagi believes that art is essential to everyone’s physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Unfortunately, art is still to reach the masses in India. It is a hobby clearly beyond the grasp of the have-nots. In an effort to address this gaping divide, Nagi established the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation that works towards creating low-cost and effective models of education for underprivileged children.
Of the many initiatives undertaken by the Foundation, perhaps the most prominent and rewarding was Misaal Mumbai. The programme focused on transforming the slums of Mumbai through art. Think painted homes with clean areas. The many shades not only brought joy to the residents, but also gave them a chance to soak in the world of art. Apart from the beautification of the slums, the programme also focused on inculcating the importance of sanitation, women empowerment, creation of job opportunities for youth and effective waste management. Thus far, Nagi has pioneered the painting and repair of more than 1,50,000 homes in over 163 slums and villages and has touched the lives of over two lakh families.