City Landmark – Mobile Phone Statues, South Extension
Installations in a changing world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
See the smiling woman on the bench staring at her mobile. Maybe she’s reading a WhatsApp joke, or binge-watching those funny Instagram reels with high-pitched laughing sound effects. We’ll never know. The phone isn’t real, nor the woman.
This statue is a new addition to the city’s public art installations. So new that it might just have been installed this day itself. A garland of fresh gendaphool is strung around her neck, here at the plaza atop the metro station in South Extension 2. The statue is extremely arresting because it is so relatable. Look around at the fellow humans in flesh and blood. Each is with a mobile.
There is no plaque yet to identify the artist. Though a few men in a park behind the plaza introduce themselves as staffers of the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi), and confirm that the woman’s statue was inaugurated some time ago, as part of the beautification drive for the (then forthcoming) G20 summit. The park too has a new statue, they point out, waving at the sculpture of a child playfully holding an even younger child in the air.
It is rare to come across mobile-holding statues in Delhi-NCR. The exception is one of the six steel statues at the Airport Metro station at terminal 3. The admiring public often pauses to snap their photos. Calcutta artist Debanjan Roy spared no detail to make his airport travellers appear lifelike, right down to the shoulder bag and juice sipper. They look like us folks scurrying towards the departure lounge with their suitcases. Each sculpture has steel wings attached to it, transforming the travellers into flying angels. (A more careful gaze disconcertingly reveals that the statue holding the mobile to its ear is actually without the mobile—but the posture is exactly of a person talking on her mobile!)
Meanwhile, South Extension is newly brimming with enigmatic mobile-holders. There’s another bench on which the sculpted figures of a man and a woman are sitting slightly apart from other, each busy on their phone (Tinder maybe?). A couple of evenings later on the same bench, history scholar Karil is spotted sitting between these two fellows, and he too is busy on his mobile! The installations are barely a week-old, and already appear to have come of age. Some rude citizen has stuck an empty cola bottle under the woman’s arm. As for the smiling woman on the first bench… where is her mobile! (Was she mugged by a fellow statue? Or some rude flesh-and-blood citizen forcibly pull it off?). She now appears to be reading her palm lines instead.
Whatever, soon these mute people will become a part of our city’s texture, and we’ll sit beside them sometimes with a book, sometimes with a broken heart, but always with a mobile.
PS: The facing plaza across the road, on South Extension 1, too has got a similar installation. Instead of the mobile, this man is holding an accordion. It is looking really cool.