Glitter Bug: Haji Ali Has Got A Sculpture Of A Blinged-Out Dabbawalla

Dabbawala, Haji Ali, MumbaiA blindingly shiny sculpture of a dabbawalla now stands like a tower of foil at Haji Ali. Installed last week by the RPG Group, whose chairman Harsh Goenka is a patron of the arts, the 13-feet statue is by Mumbai-residing artist Valay Shende. ‘Dabbawala’, a homage to the city’s lunch couriers, is a statue of a man with a tiffin box in each hand. It’s composed of golden metal discs, a hallmark of Shende’s, whose work has often dealt with migrants and people like dabbawallas crucial to Mumbai’s labour force. Now Shende’s sculptures are eye-catching in galleries, where they’re usually life-size. However, the giant statue is somewhat forbidding in the manner of Soviet monuments and looks entirely misplaced as it hovers above a busy intersection. It might be better suited to a theme park or the atrium of an office high-rise but in Haji Ali, it evokes the comparison of spotting someone dressed for a ball waiting at a bus stop. Last year, during Make in India Week, Haji Ali was bestowed ‘Nagrik‘, a 25-feet-high sculpture representing the common man. Thankfully the eyesore was a temporary installation. Shende’s dabbawalla, on the other hand, has joined the permanent ranks of the city’s body of frightful public art.

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