Enjoying creative liberty while adding strokes to the free art and murals on the walls at suburban railway stations is what attracts Jess Fokolowski (27) in the mass beautification of the stations project. Unlike other visitors to the city, Jess who is an American and an advertising employee at Dubai found herself at Marine Lines station on Western Railway during her days of visit last week to beautify stations.
Since October 2, around 36 stations on both Central and Western Railways are getting beautified under a joint initiative of Western Railway and NGOs. In her short trip to Mumbai, Jess believed exercising her creative independence at this project excited her more than hunting other tourist spots. “Back in Dubai, I am restricted to the four walls of my office while trying to bring in ideas which must adhere to the company’s policy. When I add colours to the walls here, it brings out the graffiti artist in me which makes me further enjoy it. Unlike back at work, I decide how to put colours to the story,” Jess said.
When in Mumbai, she learnt about the ‘Humara Station, Humari Shaan’ initiative which has gathered almost 30,000 volunteers from across till now. After registering herself online, she was called to help in any project of her choice, Jess said. “I was added to the WhatsApp group where they asked me to choose a station and project of my choice from options including art, doing murals, social messages and others. I chose Marine Lines station as it was closer from where I stayed and thus decided to dedicate my evening hours to this initiative,” she said. While Jess enjoyed adding outlines and filling colours on the walls, what attracted her the most was community involvement which was seen at the stations.
“I would work with the other artists from 9 pm to almost 1 am for the three days of my stay in the city. The nights here are calmer and thus you also get time to bond with others. What I enjoyed about the work was how it was more community oriented and required participation of each person. I found it to be free art,” she added.
“Making a difference” with her work defines her participation to this project, she said, adding, “Back in Dubai, we lack community events. Not only did I get to put my thinking caps on here but I was happy to utilise my free time for the right cause. What makes me happier is the fact that daily suburban commuters would be able to feel the warmth of colours and feel the difference in their routine.”
When asked what motivated her about involving herself with it, the sense of adventure received after meeting new people, she said. “I like how so many volunteers find time from their busy schedules and work here without any monetary gains. Though I am helped by some common friends here, making sense at a place whose language or traditions you are unaware of excites me. Also, people’s generosity in Mumbai is commendable,” she added.
Though she did not get a chance to travel by train, Jess recalls being in any other crowded city of the world including New York, Chicago after her stay in Mumbai. People’s curiosity in finding something new is where she draws the line between the two cultures, she said. “I am happy I could touch the lives of such commuters of Mumbai,” she added.