City Landmark – Oberoi Hotel Flyover, Central Delhi
Art of the street.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The friend’s the biggest enemy.
The maxim is scrawled in black chalk on the wall of the Oberoi Hotel flyover, here in central Delhi’s Zakir Husain Marg (see photo). A great length of this wall is covered with Hindi graffiti, along with illustrations—a pistol, a kite, a human face drawn with two noses.
Is this street art? Delhi is familiar with the concept. Some distance away lies Lodhi Colony, with its much eulogised artworks painted on house walls. Some days back, portraits of Jewish Hindi film actresses of yesteryears, including the iconic Nadira, were unveiled on a Connaught Place wall. One evening a foreign artist was seen painting that panel, graciously letting passersby click her at work. Foreigners have lent a hand to Lodhi Colony artworks too.
Perhaps the most beautiful roadside mural in the entire Delhi region are the paintings rendered on a portion of the Rose Garden wall, in Gurgaon’s Sector 15. One shows womenfolk standing comradely around a tree, holding each other’s hands, determinedly gripping the trunk, as if protecting it from being felled—this is obviously a commemoration of the Chipko Movement of the 1970s. In Ghaziabad, a magnificent wall-sized mural near the Mohan Nagar traffic light depicts a Kuchipudi dancer with sparkling eyes, among other engrossing portraits.
The artwork on the flyover here is vaguer. And it’s all anonymous. A few people living under the flyover, whom The Delhi Walla talked to, expressed total ignorance about it. While only a discerning critic could tell you about the quality of the graffiti, it does look as if borne out by the real world experiences of the person(s) who drew it. A few Delhi place-names are written on the wall—Nehru Place is drawn with incorrect spelling. There are also names of villages, and the fact they are rural hamlets is specified by ending their names with ‘gaon.’ Then there are lists of names of people such as Arif, Khalil, Rakeel, Akeel. An arresting sight is the scrawl proclaiming ‘Galli no 13’. Close to it lies ‘Aligarh Junction’. Can this whole thing be the doing of a homesick citizen hailing from that city?
All this graffiti may or may not mean something. But its very opacity adds another wrinkle to the larger story that contemporary Delhi region is.
Messages on the wall