The installation art at Worli traffic island
The typically Mumbai way of ordering a half cup of tea, the âcutting* chai, has been captured at a Worli traffic island. The installation art of Mumbaikars* favourite pick-me-up beverage is placed near Sasmira College and the old passport office, and diagonally opposite the defunct Satyam, Sachinam, Sundaram cinema complex.
The traffic island garden, which sees heavy traffic going to North and South Mumbai, now hosts a 10-foot-high installation of two hands, each holding a glass of âcutting chai*. It is a Kodak moment, ideal for cell phones or simply the camera of your mind, as it is a fun, eye-catching scene amid the grey ân* glass buildings all around.
âCutting chai, a drink unique to Mumbai holds a very special place in the heart of the city and its inhabitants. Literally translating to cutting a portion of tea into half, it is a smaller but punchier dose of chai that*s perfect for the busy city-dweller on the go, be it office colleagues bonding during breaks or strangers over politics and weather. Mumbai*s cutting chai is akin to the city*s lifeblood...* This is what the explanatory plaque at the site of the city beautification initiative by the RPG Art Foundation and the BMC states.
Artist Sheetal Gattani, a Colaba resident who conceptualised and created this work, said, "The only brief given to me was to create a public sculpture that is indicative of Mumbai. I started work in mid-2021 and the design was approved and finalised at one go." She explained, "I thought of cutting chai because of course it is quintessentially Mumbai. More than that, I believe it is more than chai, it is a great equaliser. It is had by labourers, working professionals looking for a âchai shot* during the weekday, and the rich, too. It is a great leveller, to be had at your favourite or regular âtapri*. The hands holding the cups in this 10-foot-high, 13-foot-wide installation are painted blue and green, because I noticed these are the colours of the serving stand used most commonly at the âtapris*. Personally, too, I like to drink my chai this way, on the streets, when I am out rather than at fancy-schmancy hotels."
A look at the art work shows both the glasses are cut into half; the artist has taken the âcutting* concept literally. They seem to jump out of that space, "since drivers have a few seconds to look," said Gattani. "This is a traffic dense spot, you need to have a work that captures attention immediately, one cannot have too many layers," said Gattani, an abstract artist. The JJ School of Art alumnus who believes that "during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a significant uptick in art on city walls and infrastructure, literally bringing the colour into lives."
Sachin Mahajan, BMC sub-engineer from G-South ward, said, "Tea is an intrinsic part of the city. In fact, we notice a real tea boom right now, everywhere. This is an offshoot of the very basic concept of chai and especially âcutting* that Mumbaikars are born and brought up with. In this way, the art project is rooted in realism."
The RPG Foundation said it aims to fulfil its objective to "support, promote and encourage Indian art in various forms." The city becomes a canvas for artists and their work. A spokesperson explained that they have installations like "the waves at Bandra, the dabbawalla at Haji Ali, a cameraman at the Mehboob Studio, tetrapod at Worli, and Baby Head at Nariman Point, with the artworks giving both locals and tourists a way to experience Mumbai."