Mumbai-based painter Gayatree Joshi’s Jhaduman campaign hopes to give the nearly invisible community of sweepers a voice. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
Those passing platform No. 3 at Andheri station or platform No. 7 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the last few weeks must have encountered 'Jhaduman' — not the one sweeping the platform, but the one angrily staring at them from the wall.
Wielding his weapon — the broom — with purpose, he says, “Wapas wapas jhadu nahi maroonga (I won’t sweep again and again)”.
Mumbai-based painter Gayatree Joshi, who created the Jhaduman, wanted to give a nearly invisible community of sweepers a voice. The 32-year-old, who describes herself as a “freelance social worker” is part of the Paint For a Cause initiative. A professional painter, often employed by hotels and restaurants, she uses her earnings to do pro-bono work across the city and its outskirts.
Joshi first created the Jhaduman at Sai Dham, Thakur Complex in Kandivli, a year ago. “That was for the NGO Garbage Busters. I would always think that sweepers work so hard all day, and for what? All because we are too lazy to look for the nearest dustbin? I wanted to give them a voice,” Joshi says.
She knew that a one-off Jhaduman would barely help solve the problem. So, she started approaching stationmasters in Mumbai and surrounding areas, with her idea. “So far, the response has been encouraging and all of them have allowed me to paint,” she said.
“The sweepers are the happiest. One lady told me she has always thought of telling people how tired she is of sweeping and that she won’t do it the next time. She was glad that somebody was finally saying it,” says Joshi, who comes from a family of social workers. It takes her about two hours to paint the figure and she gets a real broom pinned up to drive the point home.
For Joshi, the most heartening response came from a conference that she attended in Wardha earlier this month, on sustainable development in India. There, she met 150 youngsters from across the country. When they got to know of her initiative, they requested her to do the same in different languages across India. “They made a chart that had the message written in 16 languages and asked me to come to their hometowns and paint the Jhaduman. I plan to
start on that journey soon,” Joshi says.
The Nagpur station waiting room that has the Jhaduman also carries her number on the side. “I get many calls from people there, telling me how they stopped themselves from littering after seeing the painting. I think the message is working. People don’t like to be instructed,” she said.
"You need to invoke empathy, and for that you need to think creatively. I must add that this is a purely social campaign, there’s no affiliation to any political party,” Joshi clarifies, referring to Swachh Bharat.
Interestingly, Joshi has no formal art training. "I have studied human development, social work, even art therapy, but never art per say. I guess, I am an instinctive painter,” she says, adding that she plans to start her own non-profit organisation soon.
"I also want to paint the Jhaduman on the walls of a large building in the city, for which talks are on. Since I’m a qualified mountaineer, scaling heights is not a problem for me," adds Joshi.