Saloni Mehta, Mumbai resident and Industrial Design student at IIT B, often found herself looking at the abandoned empty skywalk outside the IIT main gate that no one would use. There were many reasons – the stink, the garbage, the liquor bottles, the dust, and the fact that it was dark. Yet, nobody seemed to care about fixing these issues.
One day, however, this young student decided to take matters into her own hands. In a two-day initiative led by Saloni on October 22 and 23, a group of over 50 volunteers gathered together to transform the old stinky skywalk into a welcoming cityscape.
Saloni, who has been studying human behaviour behind not using skywalks for a project, put out a mailer, printed out a few posters and reached out to people to join her in this initiative.
“I could’ve done it myself. It would’ve taken a little longer, but the task was manageable. But when I reached out to people, it became a community initiative. If the community is involved in the work, they feel more connected; they feel like they own it and there’s is a better chance that it’ll be maintained better afterwards,” says Saloni.
Among the people who participated were students, faculty members as well as the alumni of IIT B. While the youngest participant was a Class 9 student, the oldest person was a 1969 IIT graduate.
“People don’t use skywalks because they’re stinky and dirty. And BMC doesn’t put any effort into cleaning the skywalks because people don’t use them anyway,” says Saloni, pointing out the irony of the situation.
For her initiative, Saloni also approached BMC and sought their help. “They were quite cooperative. They fixed a couple things we asked them to, like the pavement and the lights. Still, there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”
“Overall, there is a ‘Who cares?’ attitude among people. And taking up this initiative was my way of showing that there are a people who care. So many people who participated told me that they have been thinking about doing something like this, but they just never actually did it. All we need to do is put our thoughts into action.”
Since the skywalk has been painted and now boasts a new chic look, it’s evident that more people are using it. “I just hope that it’s not a short-term thing. I am trying to think of ways so I can ensure it doesn’t fade away with time. Maintenance is the key challenge. But since now this work has been covered by newspapers, there’s a greater possibility that people will be more aware,” says Saloni.
All images: Facebook
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