A common sight in Malleshwaram is “methai gadiyara”, an uncle who creates watches and toys out of taffy. This kind of candy has always been a part of a light hearted joy and security of childhood. This mural undertakes the task of creating the same sense within the audience.
Geechugalu: Tell us a bit about yourself, and your art practice with the toffee-connect in Malleshwaram.
Shivu: I am a potter, ceramist and a sculptor and I’ve done my Bachelors in Visual Art in Sculpture from Chitrakala Parishath, and currently I’m pursuing my Masters in Shantiniketan. I’ve been born and brought up in Bangalore and lived here my whole life.
I don’t carry a personal connection with the area of Malleshwaram, but I’ve been there during my childhood and I’ve seen Malleshwaram grow, if not on a personal level, but superficially at least.
Taffy used to be found in Malleshwaram and other parts of Bangalore as well in all these small markets and Melas that used to happen in Bangalore. When I saw the site, it was basically a market with fruits and vegetables and all other sorts of shops. I remembered how those taffy vendors used to roam around there carrying the stick with them, which triggered my childhood nostalgia and memories, so I went ahead and chose that as my concept.
Geechugalu: Being an artist in the street art movement, are there any precursors to mural making that you would like to share with an aspiring artist community?
Shivu: If they have enough time, I think knowing enough about the place and the community around the specific site, would be a lot helpful. If they have the chance, maybe speaking to a few locals to know the place better, and doing a little bit of research, will perhaps help the artist with their ideas and in moving forward.
Geechugalu: Had there been any challenges that came up in executing a mural piece in a public space in a state of pandemic?
Shivu: Actually, when we started working, there was no lockdown as such, so procuring materials wasn’t that big a deal. There was a paint shop close by, so we could get whatever we wanted. But there was still a lingering fear, even with all your masks and precautions, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It was the only issue initially, but after a few days, you sort of get used to it and go with the flow. I don’t think the pandemic had an issue, it was only during the last few days when it got worse in the city and we had a lockdown.
Just a couple of days after finishing the mural, there were a few of us who tested positive, at the time there was also a lockdown here.
Geechugalu: Are there any nuggets from the locals that you would like to share?
Shivu: There was this one guy who I think, lived around Malleshwaram, who came up to me and told me that the wall that I was painting on, was going to get demolished in a month or so, and questioned as to why I was wasting my time painting it.
Frankly speaking, I hadn’t thought of the result as of then, or what was going to happen to the wall or to the mural at the end, so that had me thinking about the state of the wall after I finished; questions like what’s going to happen, will it survive or not, cropped up in my head. I started contemplating it after he questioned the future state of the wall.
Another incident that occurred while we were painting, was when a nearby owner of this children wear- garment shop called Tiny Bears, approached me after observing my work and asked if I could paint the logo of his shop at the side somewhere at my mural site.
I didn’t know how to reply at the time, because we already had our concepts planned, but that was an interesting encounter nonetheless.
Geechugalu: What would be your future expectations in terms of the wall at the site? How do you view permanence and impermanence in that regard?
Shivu: I mean, even when I was told by a local that the wall was going to get demolished within a month or so, I didn’t really feel sad, I think I just understood that’s how things were, you never know what’s going to happen next. So I don’t think you can have any sorts of pre-assumed notions about anything. I think one should just believe in what they’re doing and go for it. I personally don’t have any checklist or something like that to tick off when I’m at the site, that’s what I mean to say.
Geechugalu: Describe a significant event that occurred as part of your public art experience.
Shivu: So when I was actually painting the wall and the concept was at the back of my head, I was anticipating people older than me or my age to recognise it and that striking a chord with them. Whilst I was painting, there was this small kid who came up to me and said, ‘You know I like the colour Pink, it’s really good’. In that sense, there were kids who may have been attracted to my mural because of the colours and shapes I used.
In my process, I didn’t want the wall to be completely whitewashed, I left it as it is because it was a little old and rustic, so I wanted to juxtapose it with something new. I thought only adults would probably resonate with what I was painting on the wall and recognise it, since we don’t see ‘Methai Gadiyaras’ so often anymore, but colour also played a huge role.
Making of these candies by its maker also requires an amount of skill, from the beginning stage to it’s presentation, which I think, not everyone can pull off. So there’s an immaculate level of skill involved in it which I think got lost somewhere as we moved ahead in this modern time with the availability of all things foreign. So the kids approaching the site and engaging with the piece, made me realise that the appeal of certain things is still not lost, they could still be revived.
Geechugalu: Were there any underlying issues, either societal or interpersonal, that surfaced as a result of your public art experience?
Shivu: To be very honest, I didn’t face any issues, societal or anything. My issues were funnily mostly logistic, since those walls were quite high for my height, I had to use a ladder which was very long. I didn’t require such a big ladder; so finding space and storage for it at the end of the day, was a bit of an issue, but that’s pretty much it, I don’t think there’s a solution for it either.
Regarding societal issues, not so much. That was a market so, everyone’s busy commuting, there are not a lot of people who would actually bother about these things, I feel.
Geechugalu: What were some of your highs/lows or places where you felt that everything came together?
Shivu: The high point was the time when the small girl came up to me and said that she liked my work and wanted to paint as well, but unfortunately couldn’t as she was too young for the high ladder that I was on. So that was sort of a high point, literally.
And a sort of a brief low was when the local guy told me that the wall was going to get demolished. Yet another low was when I tested positive, and I couldn’t go back. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I couldn’t do much after that.
I still feel things could have been better in the end, but the time when I thought that everything came together, was while working; after Anpu finished her wall, and Vyas’s wall started showing more progress. That was one time when I thought that things were on a roll. Also when there were long stretches of time when we were painting and doing our own thing, that was another time when I felt that things were heading somewhere.
Geechugalu: Do you carry any personal connection with Malleshwaram? If yes, then what have been some of your fondest memories in the space or the city?
Shivu: Particularly with Malleshwaram, not so much, I remember as a kid I used to go to CTR, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t have any relatives as such in Malleshwaram, but instead in other parts of Bangalore. Regarding Bangalore, I have spent my whole life here, it’s been a lot of fun and memories.
My family owns a business here, it’s a family business involving a grocery store in Shivajinagar, so we sell rice, sugar, all sorts of dals etc. When we were kids, we used to play around in shops, when they were closed during non-working days on weekends. Me and my cousins used to go down to the shop and pretend like we were customers and shopkeepers and play around like that. There are many such brief stories that are very nostalgic and memorable.
My granny’s hometown is near Mysore, I also used to go there during my summer vacations, and we used to get those taffy vendors there as well, and not just in Bangalore, which made me think that it was available all around Karnataka, here and there.
These types of candies are not just there in Karnataka itself, the other name for it is Bombay Mittai, (sakkare kaddi). Sakkare in Kannada is sugar, Kaddi is stick.
It didn’t start in Karnataka or Bangalore, specifically, it’s said to have originated in Bombay, which later gained popularity in Karnataka and other places as far as I’ve heard and read. We used to call it sakkare kaddi, but the other most commonly known name had been Bombay Javvu Mittai.
Geechugalu: How was your experience with Bengaluru Moving x Geechugalu at Malleshwaram?
Shivu: It was actually really fun, since this was my first experience as well, in a huge collaboration with 12 artists. It was something that I was really excited for, I was looking forward to seeing what was going to happen. It was fun and refreshing for me since it had been a long time since I held a brush and painted. We also just came out of a lockdown, so coming around people, having conversations and working together again was refreshing.