Delhi: Rajiv Gandhi Smriti Van
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Wonders of the world, made of scrap
Wearing black goggles, Kasim Ali, 60, scrounges among the assembled junk and finally comes across a discarded park bench that has an angle bar of the dimensions he is searching for. On the way to his makeshift workshop, he also picks up an automobile alloy wheel. “We will use the angle bars to make the arches of our Taj Mahal,” says Ali, a mechaniccum-welder. The wheel will go into the construction of Rome’s Colosseum.
As Ali saws the metal into smaller blocks, 150 others are similarly engaged at Rajiv Gandhi Smriti Van skirting Outer Ring Road in Sarai Kale Khan. Under the supervision of 15 art graduates, Delhi is creating its own rendition of the Seven Wonders of the World on the green space where memorial trees are planted. But uniquely, it is cannibalising waste material to complete the spectacle by December.
Junked cars, discarded water trolleys, decrepit signboards, broken playground equipment and trash of all sorts — over 100 tonne from the 24 municipal scrapyards — has been brought to this green space for the Rs 4.5-crore project. “These have served whatever purpose they were supposed to. Now we are giving them another life,” says Anuj Poddar, project coordinator.
The replica wonders, ranging from 15ft to 60ft in height, have been placed in such a manner as to allow four — Pyramid of Giza, Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and the Taj Mahal — to be visible from the two flyovers on Outer Ring Road. Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer, Statue of Liberty and the Leaning Tower of Pisa will be located mid-park.
The six-acre plot is buzzing with activity, the air redolent with fumes from welding machines and the sharp noise of metal cutters. A few metres from the scrap heap, under the peepal tree planted by North Korean forest minster Kim Hae Ryul in 1993, the robes of a 30-ft thermocol replica of the Statue of Liberty are being carved with a hot nickelchromium wire. “This will serve as the base mould for the nuts and bolts to be used during the making of the real statue,” informs Debi Prasad, a sculpture graduate from West Bengal. His team consists of specialists in the use of wood, metal and polystyrene.
“One of us is always on duty scavenging for the right things in the corporation yards,” says Sandeep Pisalkar. “We mostly need things like levers and flexible sheets.” Elsewhere, Ali smiles gently at the “Ward 111 Shrimati Kiran Chopra” painted on the metal sheet he is now handling, indicating its earlier avatar as a political signboard.
Pisalkar, who is from the College of Arts in Vadodara, is currently working on a 60-ft Eiffel Tower to be fabricated entirely of metal angles. “We sometimes have to innovate,” Pisalkar adds. “We weren’t able to able to find big angles for the tower, and so have welded smaller pieces together for the same look.” The 18-ft-tall Pyramid of Giza too will be similarly constituted, but with smaller iron angles to give it the appearance of a brick structure.
One of the biggest challenges is the famous tower of Italy. It requires a special type of scrap, and the tilting structure has been stabilised by filling an old sewer pipe with concrete to create a one-tonne base. The inner stem of the structure is a discarded advertisement unipole. “The body will be built with metal rings, which could only be made with the huge cable holders employed when laying roadside cables,” explains Zakir Khan, an artist.
The Taj Mahal will cost the most among the seven. “Recreating the floral naqqashi will require elaborate effort. So many people have seen the monument and we expect them to scrutinise it the most for authenticity,” notes Poddar. In order to bypass the difficulty of getting small scraps to fit the floral patterns, the team has decided to sculpt out portions from metal using laser. Lights will be placed behind them. “The rays emanating from behind will give an effect of the famous design,” the curator explains. The four minarets are ready, constituted from electrical poles and equipment from children’s parks.
The welders are crucial to the project. Almost all are from poor backgrounds and have learned the craft on the job. “Once this project is over, they can use the specialisation they learn here to get better jobs,” hopes Poddar. Rustam Ansari from Kushinagar says he began life as a welder at the South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s waste-toart projects. “I made a dog and a heart out of scrap metal and they fill me with pride when I walk past them,” smiles the youngster.