One would otherwise pass by the many unwanted bathtubs scattered at different spots in the city, but Namrata Mehta, would come back with a DSLR camera to document them as part of a blog. “Gurgaon, a relatively new and largely privately developed city just south of Delhi, is littered with bathtubs,” reads part one of ‘The Public lives of Gurgaon’s bathtubs’ a blog post by Mehta as part of an online magazine. A resident of Gurgaon, she’s a sociologist and designer by education and vocation.
Calling it a first desired and then discarded form of luxury, Mehta’s blog explorers how a ‘seemingly private object’ takes on a public domain in Gurgaon. Ask her how the phenomenon of bathtubs interested her? She explains, “The experience is very exploratory in nature. In Gurgaon found objects have a lot of value, and people find creative ways to use it. There are so many ways of viewing it; it could be about waste, bathing culture, construction etc. The idea first came to me in 2014 when a friend of mine who is an art collaborator was visiting from Canada. I spoke to her about bathtubs being scattered near my house in Gurgaon. It’s always been at the back of my mind to do something about them. For a long time, I wanted to hire a model and make them sit in these bathtubs, and click stylized pictures but didn’t know how to take the idea forward.”
The pictures primarily taken on Sohna Road, Golf-course road, Sector-50 are photographed over the weekends and early mornings. “I do get some stares when I am clicking photographs. But no one came up to me and said what are you doing? I found them being used at construction sites and mechanics and vendor using them to sell things. Some even plant plants in it,” she says.
She further adds, “I am inspired by the city in many ways.The city is an interesting place to observe. Over the years, it has grown so rapidly. The places I knew no longer exists. It’s gone from the suburb of Delhi to a self-sustaining city. Through college, when I had to do fieldwork, I‘d pick the migrant rickshaw puller population in Gurgaon for research. As a designer and an artist, I did my first resident in Gurgaon in 2010 with Khoj, where we looked at memories and aspirations of residents of Gurgaon, juxtaposing with residents of Chandni Chwok. And for my next residency in 2013, I chose Gurgaon as a field and looked at the changing ecologies of Gurgaon.”