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Painting the Slums of Mumbai by ‘Misaal Mumbai’ Rouble Nagi

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“Art inspires people to do good, be good,”-  Rouble Nagi

Rouble Nagi  is an artist and social worker who started the initiative Misaal Mumbai to change the way slums in Mumbai, India are looked down upon as a big blot to the city and a big contrast to the clean and organized metropolitan. Rouble began her project with Paint Dharavi in 2012 and later took it further to Bandra West where  Nagi along with her team including locals and residents, painted over 285 houses. The areas covered under this initiative include Jaffar Baba Colony, Mount Mary, and Bandra West.

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Rouble Nagi hails from army background. She has traveled all of India with her family due to her father’s transfers. Her broad outlook is also a result of her vast exposure to different cultures of India. Her husband also supports her in all her works. Due to Rouble’s initiative, the slums of Mumbai which earlier looked lifeless and home to acute poverty soon converted into a big canvas and the results were outstanding. A repulsive site soon turned into a beautiful sight and eye-catching due to its rainbow colors as a result of Rouble’s endeavor.

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Rouble Nagi believes that until the interest of an artist shifts from the personal sensation to a sense of communal service, his work cannot grow. An artist’s work cannot take on real greatness until it bears the burden of people. She took the initiative to change the lives of the slum dwellers and fill them with a sense of community ownership. Working in the slums Rouble came face to face with the grim reality of their dwelling and so Misaal Mumbai started waterproofing the slum roofs along with their beautification. This initiative has been expanding as Rouble Nagi has taken charge of the slums of Mumbai and is determined to change the living conditions there.

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Rouble says “Everyone has a different perception of life. For me the purpose of life is not to be just happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

She says, “I have been working in the slums for the last 10 years, conducting my art camps all over Maharashtra. As the fourth most populous city in the world and one of the populous urban regions in the world, Mumbai has a metro population of about 22.05 million in 2018. The percentage of people living in slums is estimated to be as high as 41.3% in Greater Mumbai, meaning that over 9 million people live in these areas. The living conditions here are extremely bad. We first started with painting, then slowly after seeing the condition, we started waterproofing and cleaning. Now we run workshops for sanitation and hygiene inside the slum we are painting and revamping. Community and local involvement in the project are very important. While working there I made friends with most of the children living there, who often visited me after school hours. I was even invited to tea & breakfast to their homes by their parents. Some homes were 8 feet by 10 feet and had 11 to 13 members living there. I remember my first site, Nitin was 8 years old and I visited him after completing my work on site. It was very emotional for me to see that he had sketched me on paper and bought me a brush as a gift. I carried chocolates and sweets every day and still do. I know I cannot change the situation they are in but can make it better for them, the effort is to help them any way possible through “Misaal Mumbai”. I always tell my friends that you create a legacy not by the amount of money you have in your bank but by how many people’s lives you have touched and come close to.”

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Rouble Nagi says regarding her Intiatives for betterment of Slum Women “We have workshops for sanitation and hygiene along with art camps. Most of the times women come up to us and talk about work and life. We also run a vocational training center the program is called “Learn to Earn”. Even if you want to work from home you have many things to do and make a living for yourself and you will not have to depend on anyone. Women must empower themselves.”

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Rouble Nagi is a modern Indian youth icon who has presented the example before our new generation that happiness in life is incomplete without doing something meaningful in life. She says, “Everyone has a different perception of life. For me the purpose of life is not to be just happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

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