Sometime during the beginning of this month, a few like-minded people from the city got together to discuss the theme for the makeover of the 1.5-km-long wall on the New Airport Road in Lohegaon. After a brainstorming session, the team members decided to capture Pune’s identity as a cultural and education hub on the wall. From Pune University to Pataleshwar Temple and from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to Shaniwarwada Fort, the wall depicts not just the landmarks that define the city but also personalities who have been an integral part of its history, such as Savitribai Phule and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, among others.
Nearly 50 volunteers from Swacch Pune Swacch Bharat, Tuba Foundation, Rotary Club of Poona, SPSB Tara Foundation, Sare Jahan Se Achha Foundation and Knowledge Integration Networking came together for the initiative that kicked off on October 15.
“We started on October 2 and have been working on the wall every Sunday. We are done with more than 50 per cent of the wall. In another one or two Sundays, we should be able to finish it. While this was the common theme, people were given a free hand to be imaginative and paint whatever came to their mind when they think of Pune,” said Puneet Sharma of Swacch Pune Swacch Bharat.
And hence a variety of artworks can be seen — an image of a Maharashtrian folk artist playing an instrument; Peshwa Bajirao riding a horse; a sentence in Marathi, “Keep calm, kara kaam” (stay calm and work), and so on. Vibha Oke, a commercial artist, who participated in the initiative, said, “The wall covers development of Pune as a cultural and educational hub. Other than heritage structures, it also captures Pune’s identity as an IT hub.”
Interestingly, to mark the birth anniversary of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the volunteers dedicated a panel of the wall to him. IT professional Nilanjana Roy, who is an artist by heart, took the onus of painting Kalam on the wall. “His contribution to the country as a President and scientist, has been immense and we wanted to dedicate a panel as a tribute to him. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether I will be able to finish painting it, but I managed to do it in two hours,” said Roy.
Other than the structures of the city, the wall also carries paintings that cover various social causes like Save the girl child; rainwater harvesting; Save marine life; Swachh Pune and Road Safety, among others.
Oke said, “The best part of this initiative is that the whole atmosphere is exuberant with the volunteers happily indulging in painting the wall. It pulls me to travel all the way from Prabhat Road to Lohegaon to participate in the initiative.” Roy, who also painted a panel on ‘Save Marine Life’, adds, “I was pleasantly surprised to see passersby and local residents, especially kids and slum-dwellers, coming forward to paint the wall.”