City Hangout – Matkaman’s Water Point, Panchsheel Park
Art for water’s sake.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Here’s a place to briefly escape from all the negativity.
This refuge is by a busy road, on a pavement in south Delhi’s Panchsheel Park. The seat is… an ambassador car, the yellow cab often identified with Kolkata. Actually, it’s just the front of the cab; its middle portion lopped off and a nice cushiony seat fitted into it (which could as well be the back-seat of the same cab). Here you sit, quietly watch the traffic go by, while beside you the pavement is decked up with inspiring inscriptions like this one—“Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
This street infrastructure is perhaps the kind of installations the city desperately needs in these times. A place for strained citizens to sit, catch a breath and get their mind relaxed by cooling words. Cold water is also available, in earthen matkas, or pots, to quench the summer thirst. Indeed, this spot is first and foremost a point to help oneself to free drinking water. Which in itself isn’t a novelty. In summers, charitable-minded house owners of upscale neighbourhoods, like Panchsheel Park, often keep cold water coolers or matkas for pedestrians outside their gigantic gates. But this water point is more elaborate. Nobody needs to hire Sherlock Holmes to find out the person behind this facility. His mobile number is displayed prominently, including his website, matkaman.com.
A Panchsheel dweller, Alagarathanam Natarajan has occasionally been written about for setting up water pitchers in the area. But nobody has celebrated the extraordinary designing and layout of this drinking point. It’s so funky, so unusual, that one can imagine it has been shoplifted straight out of some art installation fair.
The whole setup seems to be modelled after a motor car. The aforementioned sayings are inscribed in metal bars, which lie fitted among an assembly of machines you might find in a car. There’s also an array of speedometers. But the most startling eye-catchers are the stands for the matkas—they look like red metallic pipes swirled into a spring-like formation. This afternoon one of the pitchers is empty and has been turned upside down.
Now, a pedestrian arrives, with his young son, and together they sit down on the car seat, watching the speeding cars go by. It’s a fun sight.
Water for art’s sake