To monuments, with love: Delhi’s people unite to conserve their heritage

To monuments, with love: Delhi’s people unite to conserve their heritage

By M. SAAD | | 12 December, 2015
Four winning tweets painted on a wall under the ISBT flyover.

On a hazy December morning, at a wall adjacent to Tibetan market entrance under ISBT flyover near Kashmere Gate, a small group is bustling with activities. On-lookers curiously scrutinise the proceedings while others stop by to click pictures. Colourful paint bathe the wall with the painters beautifying an ugly wall, which three days back represented the filth common among the public spaces of the Capital.
Even if Delhi is struggling with the increasing crime and pollution, one ought to look beyond the hotchpotch of problems for solutions. One can either, sit back and watch it slip into ruins, or else do something about it. After all, the city belongs to its people. It’s time to save the legacy of art, architecture, languages, flora and culture of the city and to inspire Delhi, a new movement is taking over the Capital in the form of a 30-month-long festival — open for all—called Delhi, I Love You (DILY).  This socio-cultural movement aims to encourage the denizens of Delhi to show their love for the city. Thomas Ellis, a film-maker from France who is one of the initiators of the movement says, “I have been living in Delhi for the past eight years and I feel I belong to this city; it has become my home. I met so many interesting people with great enthusiasm and love for the city. Yes, there are many problems with the city but by doing and changing things, we can sort things out. So, the idea is to collaborate with people and organisations to bring about the change.” He adds, “A sense of community is what we set out to create, the thing that we want to prove is how important the city is to the Delhiites.”
The love for one’s city cannot be described; it can only be felt as is the case with all the real loves. In spite of being perhaps, the most lambasted city in the world, making news mostly for all the wrong reasons, the city still manages to live up to the phrase attached to it: Dilli dil walon ki.  Time and again people of Delhi have proved that. And what sets it apart from the other Indian cities is that it has a big heart to accommodate all. It’s capable of overcoming great debacles (which is evident in its history) and love is abundant in its nature.

Over the past 18 months, the organisers have met more than 600 residents of Delhi, including students, activists, artists, poets, historians and government ministers and officials to garner support for the initiative. 

The painted stories are part of the competition #MyDilliStory organised by Delhi, I Love you and Twitter India.  #MyDilliStory is a brainchild of Manoj Pandey, who also conceptualised the literary project called ‘Tales on Tweet’ which got participation from the likes of writer Salman Rushdie, politician Shashi Tharoor and others. Kapil Misra, Delhi minister of Tourism, art, culture and languages, who inaugurated the four winning stories believes that art and languages are important part of Delhi’s culture. He says, “#MyDilliStory is a wonderful initiative which aims to sensitize the Delhiites about various problems our city is engulfed in and also aims promote the use of three key languages of Delhi: Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. This concept is a perfect blend of using local dialects to share the stories and expressing them through art via public spaces.” The tweet that won among the four selected, is in Urdu and was originally written on a piece of paper by Asrar Alam which was posted on twitter, it says: “Waqt agar ho to aao dilli ki rahon mein, Tareekh chhupi hai yahaan ki daron deewaron mein.” The competition saw a whopping figure of 8 million participants and 8000 tweets out of which 40 outstanding tweets were selected by the jury. The project aims to activate public spaces with stories and poetry about love for the city by its people and bringing the tradition of hand painted typographies back into the public spaces, which is a struggling art form. And this is just a beginning of an extraordinary mushrooming of the awakening of bonding among Delhiites, a lot more is coming up in the form of competitions, workshops and several kinds of walks.
Over the past 18 months, the organisers have met more than 600 residents of Delhi, including students, activists, artists, poets, historians and government ministers and officials to garner support for the initiative. The organiser aims to facilitate 120 events and hundreds of walks as part of the celebrations over a period of 30 months. Another initiator of this movement of love, Aastha Chauhan says. “Through these initiatives of collaboration, we want to challenge the notion that Delhi is dreadful city and give the world a new way to look at our city.” Another commendable initiative of DILY is called ‘Seed bank’ which is an effort to collect seeds of 22 native trees of Delhi and encourage individuals, government and private organisations to plant these. The idea is to get individual strengths involved and through collaboration create a massive front that can push to reclaim dying ecologies and clean the environment. DILY also aims to draw attention to waste management in the city.
The movement will come to a crescendo in the form of a feature film titled: Delhi, I Love you, the fourth installment of cities of Love, after ‘Paris, Je t’aime’, ‘New York, I Love You’ and ‘Rio, Euteamo’. Ellis who would be co-producing the film doesn’t wish to disclose much about the film at this point of time, but tells Guardian20 that they are in the process of developing the script. The film would have actors and actresses from both Bollywood and Hollywood, it would be a collective effort of 12 directors including 4 Indian directors. And Paris-based producer Emmanuel Benbihy, who created and launched the Cities of Love franchise is all game for the project.

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