As the days turn into weeks in India I have realized that everyone does not have the same viewpoint on anything. In a city of almost 14 million and a country of 1.3 billion this can be expected. This has been making me question everything we are doing here and if what we are being taught is only relevant from the standpoint of who is teaching us and their beliefs.
For example, on Tuesday morning we worked with The Ugly Indian to paint concrete columns under a flyover. The Ugly India stressed that uniformity in design amongst the columns was necessary to deter further application of posters and graffiti on columns. While I personally believed that complete uniformity would look no different to the eyes of a person who sees them all the time and is no different than the plain concrete columns. I thought that giving local artists their own column to do whatever they chose would give a passerby, local, graffiti artist, or poster paster a greater sense of beauty than a uniform column they have seen hundreds of. But that's just me, I am not in charge of the Ugly Indian.
Later that day, we heard the same viewpoint as myself and also different than that of the Ugly Indian in a meeting with JAAGA. The view expressed in the presentation was different and we even saw pictures of columns with different designs, that they said were done before the Ugly Indian undertook their current column painting project. On the bus ride home I watched outside the window vigilantly to see if I could see if there were any examples of either of the viewpoints failures. Relatively soon into the drive I saw a column with the classic non-uniform, uniform triangles and red background paint with graffiti on the red paint and over the triangles. The column next to it had posters covering half the circumference. I felt a rather guilty self victory as my viewpoint had prevailed in my mind. Maybe 10 minutes later I spotted a column painted aquamarine with an abstract design of yellow and purple and red. I had another little self victory as it was untouched…until we drove by it and the other side was also covered in posters.
Seeing each example of column beautification to deter graffiti and mass posters fail was very disheartening. I have now been wondering if our efforts here will be short lived and be trodden over as soon as we leave. I worry that my efforts here in India could amount to nothing, that as hard as I try I am incapable of making any difference and that my work will not have any effect on the masses. Trying to make change in a place of such large scale is so daunting and seemingly unachievable, I guess that’s why its called a grand challenge.