Surely, wall art couldn’t get more beautiful than this. The brainchild of a social activist who prefers to remain anonymous, the ‘Deewar-e-Meherbaani’ has caught the attention and imagination of many Iranian cities.
The first wall appeared, with the onset of winter, in the city of Mashhad, when someone painted a rectangle on a bare wall, drilled some pegs on to it and placed some shelves beside it. A notice, placed above, asked people, ‘If you don’t need it, leave it here’. The idea behind the innovative campaign was to help the growing number of ‘kartonkhaabs’ or ‘cardboard sleepers’ in Iran’s cities. These homeless, driven by the recession, the lingering effects of sanctions and rising inflation, come from small towns and villages to look for employment but face terrible hardships instead, the severe cold weather compounding their woes.
Where the Iranian state has failed to provide for its citizens, they themselves are now stepping in to help their less fortunate brothers. Tehran, Esfahan and Shiraz have caught up on the trend, which was popularized on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Walls of kindness are springing up everywhere, providing warm clothes, shoes, and even food, to anyone who needs it without compromising on dignity. As the saying goes, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, but perhaps the most precious thing about this project is the empathy it has created among the residents of Iran.
Karachi, with its teeming millions of residents, many of them in the same dire straits as the ‘kartonkhaabs’ of Iran, could perhaps do with a little ‘meherbaani’ like this if it’s well-to-do citizens decide to take up the idea.