"Mumbai can drive you crazy. And because (or, perhaps, despite) of this, you want to make sense of it. You want to make some kind of order out of it. And more often than not, in trying to create order, you succumb to the same thing that almost everyone succumbs to, the same trap: you fall for the idea of the “Maximum City”, the chaos, the speed, the heat, the shit, the poor, the rich, all at once, the grand narrative of 17 million people forced to live on top of one another in a city held together by ingenuity, momentum and sheer force of will. You succumb to this because it’s true, to a degree, and because it’s intoxicating, and also because it’s easy. In the overwhelming face of everything it’s easy to say, “all life is here, it’s messy, and it works!” and turn a blind eye to everything else. But it gets kind of boring. And it means that other interpretations are lost.
If you’ve lived or worked in Mumbai in the last five or ten years you’ll have seen the beanbag graffiti: Beanbags 26407383. I saw it once and then, like a new word you learn, I saw it everywhere, on walls, houses, pipelines, metal sheets, flyovers, construction sites, waste-ground. Everywhere: Beanbags 26407383. It was, it is, the work of a beanbag salesman, who had the genius to go out and spray the city with the name of his product and a phone number, at one stroke bypassing the legal, unaffordable marketing mechanisms of the ‘official’ city springing up around him. In the city of commerce, the very fabric of the city became an advertising hoarding. And this is how he made his fortune.
It’s a nice story, but we were interested in something else too. We were interested in the opportunity the repeated motif provided us to look at the city with different eyes, in a different light, away from the “Maximum” view...."
Text : Matthew Parker
Photograph : Zubin Pastakia