A Warrior's View: Murals, Mountains, and Mankind

We're happy to share the moving story of Prithviraj Mallick, a volunteer artist who, along with the Wicked Broz and Insane Strokes collectives, collaborated with Waste Warriors Dharamsala staff and volunteers to paint three beautiful murals in Dharamsala, Dharamkot, and Gallu in December 2017.

Waste Warriors night wide-angle Dharamsala Gandhi Park mural

There’s something special about the air in the mountains where, often, magic and reality conflates and reveals its true nature. The mighty Himalayan ridges covered in age-old pine trees, the brightest sun shining through mauve skies, a resonance of folklore in the deep woods, the waterfalls, the narrow trails to unexplored settings, the most magnificent sunsets, the crisp constellations and star systems always listen to us and answer the questions we seek. If we pay heed, can even hear them whispering. Most importantly, the air tells stories of significance of our existence and their simplicity lies within. But we try hard making outward journeys to achieve a state of bliss which eventually lasts for very short periods of time. On the contrary, the inward journey which is definitely a difficult quest but can certainly unleash our potential and help remove our mask of identity presenting the true self, ensures eternal bliss.
I came to Dharamsala about a month ago to work on a mural project for Waste Warriors. Prior to that, I was working with an IT company in ideal corporate conditions, but I didn’t realize it began to change me as a person, and I felt a lack of contentment in my actions and a social anxiety which gradually grew over time. Many questions, for which I didn’t have answers, poured confusion and skepticism in me. I had to make a decision and that too very quick. Finally appeared the moment of truth! I quit my job, packed my bag and headed to the mountains. As soon as I saw the Himalayas, it cleared the fog and began to heal me. I was never more sure about my decisions. I could see life began to change and it was happening faster than I imagined. My objective was to come up with a mural idea for a 50ft by 10ft wall that surrounds Gandhi Park near Dharamsala ISBT.

Waste Warriors Prithvi at Dharamsala Gandhi Park mural

(Prithvi working on the Gandhi Park mural near Dharamsala ISBT)

Collecting inspirations started to unfold stories that I’d never heard before, the warmth of people around I’d never experienced, and the mountains already began to change me, pouring immense amount of positivity. I lived with amazing people with extraordinary talents, made friends who inspired and taught me to follow my heart. I think I started finding my answers. Working with Waste Warriors was an amazing experience. We lived in a communal setting, where we worked and cooked together, enjoyed the coldest nights sitting around bonfires sharing stories under starry nights, gossiping and sharing laughs. Everything felt so perfect, even though if a task was the most tedious, like cleaning our own dishes after meals at -1ºC. Yeah, it’s painful but you'd love to do it!
During our stay in Dharamsala, we, Wickedbroz, based in Mumbai, made three murals in three different locations. One is in Gallu about 1900m in altitude, another one in Dharamkot, and the biggest one on the wall of Gandhi Park, near Dharamsala ISBT. It took us about 4 days of hard work to finish it off but what we received in return is an abundance of love from local people, government, and whoever passed by our murals.

Waste Warriors Mother Nature mural Gallu Triund

(The Mother Nature mural on the wall of Sun n Moon Cafe in Gallu)

In Gallu, a 10ft by 15ft mural, a surreal depiction of mother nature in a form of beautiful face and the Himalayan mountain alongside was done on the wall of Sun n Moon cafe. The mural promotes cleanliness and highlights our responsibility towards conserving nature for the local community, and for future tourists and hikers.
Another mural, located in Dharamkot, at about 8ft by 10ft big, we surrounded a beautifully illustrated Gautam Buddha with a Tibetan flag theme, and this highlights Dharamsala’s significance as a the place of residence for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, as well as the prominent presence of the Tibetan community in this region.

Waste Warriors Buddha mural Himalayan Tea Shop Dharamkot

(A Tibetan flag theme adorns the Buddha on the wall of the Himalaya Tea Shop in Dharamkot)

The biggest mural is located near the Dharamsala ISBT, on one wide side of the wall surrounding Gandhi park – a place known for its maximum footfall within Dharamsala. It took us a while to creatively think of an appropriate idea and illustration that we wanted to start and complete on this wall. We wanted this mural to be made as a guide which can be referred to locate important places in Dharamsala. The challenge was to get the map correct on a 3D scale. After several discussions with local people and volunteers, we finally managed to get it right. The mural encompasses major mountain ranges and peaks, landmarks, waterfalls, locations, folklore and local life and we wanted people to connect with it as they looked at it.

Waste Warriors team at Dharamsala Gandhi Park mural

(Waste Warriors and Wicked Broz mural team with Mayor of Dharamsala and PWD officials)

While working on the mural, we received a lot of support and love from local people, tourists, shop-owners and local police. Local and national news and media agencies turned up to cover the event. On final day, the mural was inaugurated by Mrs. Rajni Vyas (mayor of Dharamsala). She shared her warm regards and extended her support towards Waste Warriors.
During my second visit, I witnessed another amazing mural in Mcleod Ganj market. Three artists - Joey Baker, Julia Sparkle, and Jack Lightfoot - from the U.K., volunteered to do this mural for Waste Warriors. A subtle fusion of Tibetan Thangka art and abstract western expression encapsulated cultural and social aspects of local life.

Waste Warriors McLeod Ganj mural by Joey Julia and Jack

(Artist volunteers Joey, Jack, and Julia stand by their Tibetan-style mural in McLeod Ganj)

Art has always been considered as a very powerful and effective medium to communicate stories, opinions, expressions, attitude, and messages. If projected appropriately, it can influence a large amount of people. Art has always played an important role in the social and cultural aspects of human life and helped us focus on certain things that are required to bring awareness and save the only planet we live in. It definitely is a great initiative by Waste Warriors to choose art as a medium to spread awareness and make people conscious about their surrounding they inhabit. With rapid urbanization, it’s important to ensure we are taking the right measures to conserve nature and our environment.