Nagpur: When you arrive in Nagpur by air next from any trip and walk into the Arrivals lounge to retrieve your bags, you will pause, look and admire! You will be thrilled with the new look of our Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Airport that espouses and supports the cause of empowering the girl child in a most beautiful and unique way.
The brain child of Dr. Suchika Gupta Deshmukh, MD of HERD foundation, the huge mural measuring 293 running and 2930 square feet, was dedicated to the people today. Helping her fulfill her vision were a local artist Shagufta and American Fulbright scholar Augustina Dross.
This big canvas, which runs across two entire walls of the lounge was painted in just 13 days with Augustina in the lead, aided by Shagufta and numerous volunteers who worked almost round the clock.
Augustina was scheduled to leave back for USA on 18th February, and it was the first week of February by the time all permissions had been received from the Airport Director and other formalities were done with.
How to undertake such a gigantic task, in the short window of time, which was a first even for the experienced Fulbright scholar/Artist, was a real question. Shagufta and others at HERD appealed for more volunteers on social media and the response was overwhelming.
Youngsters, and young at heart enthusiasts responded not just from in and around Nagpur but places like Pune, Nasik, even Gujarat. Three did come in from Pune and Nasik, and about 35-40 locals joined in. Some Art teachers and students, some Medical students of Deshumkh’s Lata Mangeshkar college, and even housewives. Majority were women, but a few very helpful and active men also pitched in.
How was the design for mural chosen?
Suchika expanded on this question in her welcome address: “We asked 150 girls from Jawaharlal Nehru School, Wadi to draw their aspirations and then these drawings were taken as the basis to design the doodle of this Mural.
The girls whose faces are painted here are 3 of the 150 students and we are happy to have them here with us, Payal, Sonali and Kashish.
The 3 faces have become the life of the mural, and we see in each face an emotion, emotions that collectively communicate the idea of contemplation, hope and conviction. Augustina who is the lead artist of this piece of work is
an expert at picture like paintings and one of the few in the world who paints them to this scale.”
Suchika also narrated how difficult and impossible the task had seemed at first.
“Putting this together has been challenging, we faced multiple adversities, many permissions to be obtained, security clearance of all the volunteers then once the project began – wrong paints, wrong prints, miscommunication, no ladders, insufficient volunteers, caffeine induced highs and many more…” said Suchika adding: “but ALL have been worth it and very rewarding, I get goose bumps thinking we pulled this off having started drawing on the 6th and finishing in 13 days on the 18th!”
After Suchika’s address a novel exercise was undertaken. Many from the distinguished guests present were invited to come and talk about their ideas and opinions on empowering the girl child.
In his presidential address, Dr. Brijesh Dixit, M.D. of Maharashtra metro said that Nagpur was the first airport in India, and one of the few in the world to display Art for a cause. He said art that had historically begun as crude drawings on cave walls and had later progressed to sophisticated canvas paintings in homes and museums has now become a public medium to espouse causes.
As Indian women have begun coming out for education and jobs they are facing the challenge of security and safety, said Dixit, which we need to address as a nation.
Creating awareness about the issue in places like airports is a novel idea he said.
He also mentioned that this mural was personally inspiring to him as the Nagpur metro was going to have many walls which could be utilized similarly.
Dr. Amol Deshmukh, co founder and M.D. (joint) of HERD proposed the vote of thanks. He congratulated his wife Suchika, for successfully taking on impossible projects and always delivering results!
“Her passionate zeal for women’s causes has rubbed on all of us. Last year, when a baby girl was born to us, the whole family was overjoyed and welcomed her with open arms. This happening in a ‘Deshmukh’ family is indeed heartening!” Amol said candidly.
The Airport Director and many Custom officials were also present on the occasion and welcomed the initiative that has made their domain – the Nagpur airport – unique.
The highlight of the function was the thespian senior politician Ranjeet Deshmukh getting emotional as he complimented his daughter in law Suchika, for the “grand venture.” He was joined by his wife Rupatai Deshmukh in showering praise on Suchika.
Charity begins at home they say and it was wondrous to see the cause of women empowerment being so well supported in the Deshmukh household itself!