PANAJI: Celebrated cartoonist, the late Mario Miranda's unblemished legacy needs no introduction in Goa.
But his colourful signature murals painted across the walls of the Panaji municipal market, which were streaked with the ubiquitous paan-streaks and grime collected over the years, did make one wonder whether Goa really cared about the few legends it has given birth to.
However, there were some young folks who did care and perhaps in the right spirit of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, a group of seven volunteers armed with scrubbers, sponge-wipers, buckets and water cleaned the murals over the weekend, drawing much applause for their effort on social media.
The seven volunteers, who call themselves Revolutionary Goans, believe that art exhibits in public space are meant to inspire, and the work of a great master like Miranda, a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian honour, deserves better care.
"Mario Miranda is a Goan and is world famous as a cartoonist. It was sad that his paintings were not kept clean in his own homeland. Being Goans, we are proud of every artiste the state has produced and Mario is a gem among them," 28-year-old Manoj Parab, who led the clean-up operation, told IANS.
Built around 15 years ago, the Panaji municipal market is known for its quaint architecture, as well as for mismanagement and a general lack of upkeep. The one aspect which stood out vis-a-vis the market's optics however, were the murals of Mario Miranda on its walls, two each on the upper and lower levels of the marketplace.
The murals are trademark Mario Miranda, with typically, curvaceous, eccentric and casually over-the-top, colourful characters selling their ware or just passing through the market place, as rendered by the great artiste, who died at the ripe old age of 85 in 2011.
There was no doubt, Parab explained, that the murals breathed life into the daily drudgery of those customers who frequented the market place or of those who sold their wares, but time as well as lack of cleanliness, and, of course, the unending dribbles of paan-spit, were taking a toll of the masterpieces.
"We took up the cleaning chore on the same day that we saw a few tourists from the UK taking photographs of the paan streaks on the murals. We really felt bad and that we had let down Mario Miranda," he explained.
Miranda hailed from the South Goan village of Loutolim and has worked as a cartoonist for top newspapers and magazines in India, apart from compiling several celebrated volumes of his work.
"The mural was lined with red, from paan-spit all over. The municipality could not have missed it, but they never thought about cleaning it," Parab lamented.
Incidentally, last week, the Panaji Mayor banned the selling of paan in the state capital, claiming it was not in sync with the city's culture.
"Art in public spaces is a good concept. It inspires and motivates many, but proper care needs to be taken to protect it from such damage. Public awareness is important. We can have paintings or art in public places only if proper care is taken by the concerned authorities," Parab concluded.