24 Apr 2018


Encountered in Mumbai: Dinesh the Warli Artist. 

Dinesh is a friend of Aslam, a photographer and bleeding heart activist of all causes affecting the weak who is also on a mission to document the rivers of Mumbai. Dinesh is someone who lives on a tribal settlement on the banks of the Dahisar river inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. He is the first graduate from the tribal community who call the forests that stretch north from Salsette Island all the way to Palghar and beyond until Nagar and Dadra Haveli.  The tribal who are the original inhabitants of the this part of India.

Warli is their art form and Dinesh is a custodian of the art.

As the first graduate in the community, he seems to be a major influence on the easy going people people in his pada or settlement and youngsters from the other padas close by. There were two high school boys who were hanging around with him, learning to paint, when we reached his home on a very hot Sunday afternoon.

Even though he was a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts from an institution called Ruia College, he is more at home with his traditional art. He seems unsure about using his education to seek a livelihood in the big city that is hidden from his home but within earshot. However, his art is taking him places, slowly. He gets enough work from a women from the city who find buyers for his work, an example of which you can see in the above picture.

Dinesh took us for a walk to the river and the woods next to his settlement. He stopped and picked up a yellow flower and told us that he uses it to make a colour used to make his art. As he spoke, Aslam shot a few images of him with the flower and so did I.

The Dahisar river is bone dry, this time of the year and among the rocks polished by water, yellow flowers were sprouting and smiling brightly in the sun.

Dinesh's home is a little zoo. It is home to any animal that needs shelter. Chicken, ducks, geese, pigeons and other birds live with him and around his house. This is his bed, with a net above it to stop pigeon droppings and fathers that fall down. The home has natural ventilation because of the wall of reeds (?) plastered with clay and cow dung.

Most homes in the pada no longer have these traditional walls. They are being replaced by metal sheets that are easy to maintain and cow dung is not easy to find anymore. The cons of using metal sheets is that ventilation is bad.

The settlement he loves in called Naupada or new settlement (?). He is the fresh breeze of modernity that resides in the village. 

Aslam and Dinesh

A bend in the river
inside a forest
meters before it enters the city

The bend in the river
an aborted U turn
where it caught the scent
stench of the urban

Clear water
sometimes muddy
kissed by the lips of deers
and leopards alike
before it turns blue

A bend in the river
strewn with rocks
marks of nails of men
in the sand they are stealing

A bend in the river
inside a forest
fearing the city
it will enter
and die

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