In Ghaziabad’s Dasna jail, they have left behind figures of dancing men and women. A huge ship is sailing against rough waters on a 30×15 ft wall in Khetri in Rajasthan. Colourful masks adorn walls of a school in Uttarakhand. In the last two years, Meenakshi J and Jey Sushil have travelled across India, from Ranchi to Goa and Kashmir to Chennai. Completing the trip is a 350 CC green bullet named Hari Bhari. The purpose of the unending journey is to splash colours on walls, with the involvement of the local communities. Now, an open exhibition at the India Habitat Center in Delhi chronicles their adventures with photographs that document their artwork. “We want to break the notion that artists work in a confined space. By involving the people, we are giving them a first-hand experience of the process,” says 28-year-old Meenakshi. The visual artist is a pillion rider to her husband, a BBC journalist. They have a 8×25 ft canvas on which over 200 people have painted in the last three weeks.The outcome is a riot of colours, from hand prints to floral patterns, butterflies and lighted diyas. Visitors are encouraged to dip their hands in paint and get creative.
Even as Meenakshi engages with a group of children, she recalls the couple’s first trip in 2013 — from Delhi to Mumbai, where they painted in the balcony of a friend. The response encouraged them to plan a road trip from Mumbai to Chennai, with stops in Pune, Mangalore and Bangalore, among others. Their luggage included clothes, camera and acrylic paints, and accommodation was provided by the host for whom they painted in return.
While the two usually receive a warm welcome, there have been roadblocks, too. In a school in Muzaffarpur’s red-light area, Chaturbhuj Sthan, for instance, they left the work unfinished after the staff objected.
In Udhampur, the school master only allowed them to paint after classes were over for the day.
Prepared for challenges and well-stocked with basic utilities, they also have to deal with surprises on the road. One afternoon, in the humid heat of Goa, they faced a bike breakdown and, in Bangalore, they ran out of petrol on the road. “Several people came forward to help us since I was a female pillion rider,” says Meenakshi, adding there are years to go before their road trip ends — there are innumerable walls still to be painted.
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