Five years ago, Nilesh Nagra from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, was disgusted as most passengers are when they see the pathetic state of a railway station in India. From open urinals, paint chipping off the walls, cow dung to fruit flies everywhere — it left him feeling repulsed.
The scene haunted him for days when he returned to his home in Indore. While the condition of stations in Madhya Pradesh was not as bad, he feared the plight could get worse and decided to take action.
A civil engineer by profession, he discussed with his friend about beautifying railway stations through paintings and a few weeks later, the duo was sitting outside the Division Railways Magistrate’s (DRM) office of Ratlam.
They proposed the 3D artwork that promoted the local heritage, art, culture and traditions. The pitch was to experiment with just one railway platform and instead, they bagged five stations. The only condition was they had to self-fund the project.
Nilesh gathered five people studying fine arts, or those who graduated in a similar field, and completed the project, leaving the officials and passengers impressed.
“They did a great job at a minimal cost. Seeing the walls come alive with bright colours, local monuments, tourist spots, festivals and more, we observed a change in people’s behaviour too. There was awareness and a reduction in garbage dumping activity. Now people think before spitting,” Babar Qureshi, Commercial Manager, Ratlam Division, tells The Better India.
What began with a small team of five people now has 145 artists and their company ‘Satrangi Creations’ is widely known in the railway circles.
“So far we have covered 48 stations and an area of 7 lakh square feet. We have worked in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The idea is to encourage people to keep the stations clean by having a unique creation. It is unlikely that you will throw garbage in a spot that looks stunning. I am grateful to the railways for supporting me,” Nilesh tells The Better India.
While some of their projects are funded by the railway department, some are sponsored through CSR activities or are self-funded.
“Neemuch town, where our second assignment, is the birthplace of the Central Railway Police Force (CRPF) so we approached them and explained our CRPF-themed artwork for the station. They agreed and gave us Rs 2.5 lakh. Some newspapers had even covered the event. So for every station, we try to approach the local organisations that can help us financially,” he says.
Nilesh quit his full-time job at a corporate house and engaged himself completely in painting walls and murals.
For every project, the team studies the local culture, heritage buildings, history, way of living, etc. to include as much local scenery as possible. He says railways can be a good medium to introduce tourists to the local scenes.
For instance, they added Nandana block printing in Neemuch, a painting of queen Ahilyabai Holkar in Indore, Maharana Pratap and Ghomer folk dance in Chittorgarh, Ajanta Ellora art in Jalgaon and so on.
One of their artworks was noticed by the Norway Art Council in 2019 on social media and Nilesh was invited to the country for a collaboration.
“That was a huge boost for us. I visited them twice, once for designs and a second time to execute them. They wanted to know my 3D techniques,” he says.
Not just Norway, he even caught former Union Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal’s attention during a competition for beautification of railways. His painting of Pashupatinath temple with zodiac signs at Mansoor railway wall, spread across 8000 square feet, got him government recognition.
Take a look at his exquisite and stunning 3D art here:
Edited by Yoshita Rao