PRIYANKA ANIL KARYEKAR
The proverbial ‘Mumbai Chawl’ is this place where souls, stories, struggles and strife coexist in perfect harmony. Its walls and hopes are shared, doors and hearts wide open. It is home to this unique mix of people, that tells the most human stories. Mumbai would not be half the city it is today without its chawls - the only way Mumbai is still connected to reality and the only place where there’s still room for everyone.
With this insight, graphic designer, Priyanka Anil Karyekar built her very first taxi fabric. Since she was a child, all her vacations used to be typically spent in her mama (uncle’s) house in Girgaon. “So my inspiration was right beside me. I used stay there with my cousins for months and months, and share a very special bond with the place. So when I started thinking about the project, the first thing that came to my mind was nothing but the ‘Mumbai chawl’. The idea was like a memory jar for me,” smiles Priyanka.
The title of the taxi, ‘Batatyachi Chal’ has been named after this humorous book written by a famous Marathi writer, P.L. Deshpande. “The book revolves around imaginary lower middle-class families living in the 1940s in a fictitious tenement named ‘Batatyachi Chal’ located in the Girgaon area of Mumbai. There are famous plays that have been based on the book as well,” she says.
While creating the taxi, the primary challenge that she faced was to portray the core essence of a chawl life, and illustrate the nuances and details that make a chawl what it is known for.
Now every chawl in the city is being crushed to the ground and turned into humongous towers. “We are losing everything we grew up seeing. The dirt, the filth, the fun, the sharing. So I wanted to make a taxi that makes people want to preserve chawl life in Mumbai. Chawls are more than just homes, more than just locations for shooting films, making documentaries, and have people’s childhood and families nestled in them,” she shares.
Priyanka started her career in Mumbai where she stayed with her aunt (maasi). She always wanted to start her career from Mumbai despite the crowded trains and humid weather. “One challenge was to cope with the lifestyle and speed of the city. But work-wise I was lucky to get the chance to work with people who always tried to make me a better designer,” she says.
On the perception of design in India, she thinks that our cultures, customs, colours and characteristics of people have consistently played a big role in influencing the way Indian design looks or ha evolved over time. The cultural/regional/historical aspect of India that inspire her the most are the people, their languages and unique behaviour of each city.
“When I got selected from the workshop to do my own taxi, I was super happy and tensed at the same time! I would like to take this opportunity to thank Taxi Fabric for giving me a chance to be a part of the project and being patient for all these months,” she says.
And about the Taxi Fabric project itself, she has a bunch of praise. “It allows us (designers) to narrate a story through our fabrics and create design awareness. It educates people in an interesting way without trying to preach.” she adds.
Finally, for fellow designers she beautifully recommends, “Work hard. Keep observing. Travel a lot. Don’t let your wishes be limited to a list. Make it happen.”
Photographs by Amey Kadam and Shweta Agarwal.