You can fall for its scruffy charm, but it takes a certain degree of generosity to call Mumbai a good-looking city. Once the monsoon sets in, and the city wears its tarpaulin cloak, its unflattering bumps and blemishes become harder to ignore. Since December, however, the non-profit Chal Rang De has been giving Mumbai’s neglected corners a good scrub, and a creative burst of colour.

For their first project, Dedeepya Reddy and Terence Ferreira, co-founders of Chal Rang De, enlisted a group of volunteers to paint Asalpha, a hilltop slum in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar suburb. As images of the vibrant walls and pastel-hued murals began to appear on social media, the neighbourhood was nicknamed “Mumbai’s Positano". Since then, Chal Rang De has brought the city little visual treats, such as a samosa chaat stall fashioned as a DJ console, or a pillar painted as a cop outside the Sakinaka police station.

After receiving a flood of online inquiries from volunteers and donors, the team zeroed in on a new suburban canvas last month: the slums of Khar. A more comprehensive makeover was planned for their second outing, with practical improvements made to living conditions. “The rains are coming, and, in Mumbai, that’s as scary as saying ‘winter is coming’," says Reddy, who also runs the creative agency Fruitbowl Digital. To combat the problem of leaky roofs, Reddy and her team sourced a more viable substitute to tarpaulin. “We used material from this company called Dr Fixit Rahat, which reduces the indoor temperature by 4-5 degrees, lasts for at least five years, and costs as much as tarpaulin," she says.

With the help of more than 1,000 volunteers, the neighbourhood walls were brought to life with playful murals and rooftops painted in rainbow hues. Reddy and her team have completed work on 400 houses in the area, and now hope to extend this colour carpet to all the surrounding 7,000 homes. The most heartening part of the project, Reddy says, was the enthusiasm of the volunteers and the assistance of the local authorities. “These young volunteers could’ve been at a party; instead, they choose to stand in the sun and help out. It’s overwhelming," says Reddy. “The BMC (Brihanmumbai municipal corporation) also helped us in installing dustbins in the area. We have to take the permission of every house dweller, the local adhyaksh (chairperson), the BMC and the local MLA...and their willingness and support changed my perception. I want everyone to know that there are hard-working people who want to improve the city."

For details about forthcoming projects, visit Chalrangde.com.

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