Delhiwale: The Jungle Book—in Gurugram
- Take a look at these series of paintings near the Rose Garden in Sector 15
Baby elephant is standing on the roadside with elephant parent, their trunks raised—as if hailing the green auto parked on the pavement. Not far from them, a blue magpie is spreading her wings, about to take off. A stork is hiding behind tree leaves, perhaps fed up of dust and traffic. And a leopard is tiptoeing down a slanting tree branch.
There’s a leery-looking crocodile too.
No, you aren’t reading Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. This is the real world, right in the heart of Gurugram, overlooking the national highway.
It is a series of paintings on the outer side of the boundary wall of the Rose Garden, in sector 15. The mural is long, really long, decked with painting after painting. You walk along as if in an art gallery that refuses to end. Each panorama is thoughtful and arresting. Unlike modernist abstraction, where the artist interprets the scene into their own peculiar vision, here’s the old-fashioned way of depicting life, the way it exists on the surface, though with a generous addition of creative licensing. One can spend an entire day strolling along the wall, stopping in front of each work, and gazing upon it for long moments.
This wall art has been here for a few years. An attendant in the area’s public toilet says it was created under the supervision of the city administration. His restroom is attached to the painted wall like a limpet. This afternoon, he is sitting on a chair in front of the aforementioned leopard. His white shirt is hanging from a hook pinned just above the leopard’s tail.
Further ahead, the theme on the wall changes from wildlife to its sister concern, climate change. One haunting panel shows a bottle floating aimlessly in the sea—the bottle has a tree inside, with its root intact. Another panel shows a pair of hands delicately holding a glass bowl that contains a tree, as if it were the last tree alive. This leafy tree is painted at the top of the wall, but the tree doesn’t seem to end there. Instead, you see it growing into a real leafy tree, which is actually standing just behind the wall.
Wall art isn’t a novel concept—check out central Delhi’s Lodhi Colony. But on this stretch everything else is so bleak, so polluted, that this beautifully executed vision in colours gets overwhelming.
The most moving panel depicts the famous Chipko Movement. A group of women are possessively gathered around a tree, holding hands, their backs to the trunk.
Now a man in mask comes and stares over this painting, looking bewitched. Just the stuff art gallery experience is made of.