Shutters are pulled down, signalling the end of the day. The shops in Pune’s Ravivar Peth were bustling with life until about an hour ago. Attendants rushed to bring customers all the items they needed as quickly as possible.
This particular area in the city is famous for its wholesale shops where you can get everything from paper items to hardware at subsidised rates—irrespective of the quantity. Localites like me swear by them as they are much more resourceful and varied than any mall.
Art can turn anything magical, whether it is the shutters of a closed shop, kitchenware or home decor. Choose from a wide range of artistic wares to support rural and differently-abled artists on The Better India Shop.
As the day ends, the area becomes quite bleak. Grey, ivory and dark-coloured shutters set the ambience for the streets from which the traffic and customers have now vanished.
Using these plain shutters as their canvas, Alefiya Kachwalla and Annushka Hardikar are brightening the streets of Pune. Alefiya, an advertising professional, knew Annushka through a common friend.
The latter is an illustrator and graphic designer who has three books under her belt—Raising Rihaan; Oh Nari, So Sanskari!; and Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad.
Read more about her work here.
So when Alefiya, the daughter of a paper shop owner in Raviwar Peth, approached Annushka for the painting project, she hopped on board.
Speaking to The Better India, Annushka shares, “Alefiya’s family has been running the shop for three generations with most members growing up in or near the shops and garnering loyal customers over several years. But as the city grows, with new students and professionals shifting here, their idea of Pune is very limited, very urban. These peths, which are the heart of the city, are not familiar to them. So we thought—why not try to attract this new crowd to the old city with bright graffiti and street art.”
They started “A Fresh Coat”, a project to beautify the shutters of Pune’s old shops and portray their stories.
For instance, the Gulamhusen Mohammed Bhai Shop, which has been here since 1937, was the first shop of Pune to offer binding services. They have, as the shopkeeper told Annushka, one of the six binding machines exported from Germany during that decade.
But it is rare for a customer to know this. For Annushka and Alefiya, it was stories like these that needed to be told.
“The first shop we worked on, of course, was a paper shop, owned by Alefiya’s father. But we also approached the neighbouring shops, speaking to the owners about why we were undertaking the project. We sat with them, discussed their legacies, and what they wanted potential customers to know about them. For about a month or so, we were doing this recce until we arrived at an understanding with them.”
Their next task was to approach artists whose styles matched the nature of the shops. The project wasn’t going to be a two-member team, and the duo was excited to work with various freelancing artists. They would also get their friends to lend a hand in the painting jobs.
On Sundays, the team would work from 5 am till late at night, perfecting their designs on the shutters. This, of course, without missing the famous Puneri afternoon breaks.
“In the first phase, we painted 20 shutters of 18 shops, charging the owners nothing but for the materials. Every design was finalised after thorough discussions with them. This was their project, their beautification, and only the execution was being done by us. In the second phase, we hope to bring some funds from sponsors and crowdfunding, so that the model becomes sustainable,” the artist adds.
From a balloon shop which Annushka describes as opening up into a magical world to a hardware store that sells nothing but nuts and bolts, the duo and their freelancing team encountered interesting stories. And their art brings them out and how!
These wonderful pictures have been clicked by Panchsheel Gaikwad and can be used only with permission from him. To know more about the project, contact “A Fresh Coat” on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)