What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Mumbai? Is it the screeching trains, the slow-moving traffic, the swarms of people jostling with each other or the constant buzz that echoes throughout the city? With a population of over 22 million and not a sliver of space left, the congested city breathes a sigh of relief, a few miles to the north, at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
This lush oasis in the midst of a concrete city, boasts a number of rare inhabitants. However, our designer, Ashvini Menon notes that many times we forget that these animals are actually a part of our city. “I wanted Mumbaikars to also think of the non-humans that share the city with us.” So, while designing her Taxi Fabric, she decided to give these animals their space in the city that is equally theirs. “Like most people in Mumbai who are working hard trying to build a name for themselves, waiting to be noticed in the chaos of the city, the natural world is doing that too with this fabric,” she adds.
Ashvini’s design is certainly one to stop and notice, with animals like the beautiful Flamingo, the Indian Porcupine, the Leopard and the Mouse Deer amongst many, set amid luscious green and yellow hues. Looking above, you will find the Brahminy Kite and the White-Bellied Sea Eagle soaring high in the hot afternoon sun, while the Hanuman Langur darts in and out of the tree tops. Oblivious to the ever-growing city that lies just beyond the rickety fences, these creatures live in a world of their own. The threats of urban encroachment have increased through the years, putting the forest cover in serious danger. Concerned about the dipping forest cover, she notes, “Cities like Mumbai will always be the first to bear the brunt of losing its green. And with the green, we will also lose its beautiful residents.”
Ashvini’s passion for wildlife is visible in her design which she has titled Wild Mumbaikers. She found this name was apt to describe those inhabiting her taxi. “I like how the word 'Wild' is used to describe 'a crazy human persona' and also means 'growing in the natural environment, untamed’.” The natural world and the landscape was always a source of inspiration for her. She believes that design needs to show some real change to the people for it to gain recognition as a powerful tool. “See if your work can help someone or help a situation get better. The rewards will pay you more than money does,” she advises.
Ashvini’s Wild Mumbaikars give us, regular Mumbaikars, a chance to step out of our chaotic world into the tranquility of a forest. During your journey, take a moment to remember that amidst our polluted atmosphere, there is a sanctuary that lends us a window to breathe easy. And on your way out, high-five the leopard that’s raising its paw for you eagerly!