Writing On The (Black) Wall

Some ideas are simple and yet so effective, they take the breath away. They quite often come into being such that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of their appearance or trace their evolution. There’s no such doubt about the origin of one of our best ideas – black paint the external wall of our office at the Puttenahalli Lake and use it as a notice board.

Way back in 2012 our already long To Do lists seemed to regenerate like Hydra’s heads. If we ticked one item, two grew in its place. Fellow trustee Arathi’s list of 3rd July included this brainwave of the black wall. By then we were inviting residents to help with watering, deweeding and other little chores. Along with painting the distance on the walking track, they painted the lower part of the wall with black matte paint.

Our office in 2011
The black wall, July 2021

This black wall became an integral link between us and those who visited the lake, whose number was increasing by the day. If ever there was a prime location for a notice board, it had to be this. The office was right at the entrance, the window was about one third the wall and the ‘notice area’ was just below the window. No one could possibly miss our messages and there have been so many over the years! From greetings to announcements, this black wall has been our mouthpiece.


Though I must have written on it only once or twice, writing with a chalk piece in a straight line with uniform size letters wasn’t quite easy. My friends picked up the skill soon enough as you can see in these photographs. My task was to give the text. It had to be crisp and catchy and also easy to translate into Kannada for Ramu. He was the only one of our four gardeners who had completed schooling.

Help with gardening, 2019

Occasionally, volunteers showed off their artistic skills with chalk on black. Surprisingly for a public space, these drawings and our announcements remained till we erased them. Did people look at them at all? We added another notice board, this time on an easel which we could shift around. Even then, there was no response. Well, our duty was to inform. If no one wanted to acknowledge, then so be it.

The mounted blackboard, April 2013
Artistic volunteers, March 2018

Between 2017 and 2021 the lake was inundated with raw sewage. To ward off visitors’ complaints, we wrote on the black wall –

“BWSSB at work. Trying to stopping sewage.”

A couple of days later, someone added “… and failing”.

Ah ha! One response at last. We kept a piece of chalk on the window sill. The flood gate opened with every other person expressing their anger at the condition of the lake, to ask what we were doing about it and so on. However, not one of these was written on the wall!

The narrow strip above the window had the address of our registered office along with the mobile number which was normally with me. Throughout the day and at all odd hours, I started getting complaints. I answered patiently to every single individual explaining how we were after the Sewerage Board to attend to the issue, how they were not responsive enough, that they were no longer even taking my calls.

One of the callers insisted that we didn’t know how to tackle the engineers. Even as he went on to educate me, I had an idea to match Arathi’s. That morning I went to the lake and wrote the Sewerage Board engineer’s mobile number on the black wall in big bold letters with the comment:

“Lake stinks because of sewage. Complain to this number.”

Within 24 hours, the engineer telephoned to say that he was working on stopping the influx.  

It still took the Sewerage Board one long year to replace the underground drain with a bigger one. The lake no longer stinks and we are happy to know that people do indeed read our messages on the black wall.

Announcing our annual fund drive, Feb 2022
Photos: PNLIT

Published by Usha Rajagopalan ("Lakeika")

I am a writer, translator and lake conservationist based in Bengaluru, India.

3 thoughts on “Writing On The (Black) Wall

  1. Brilliant and unique out of the box thinking which has characterised the rehab of Putenahalli lake right from the beginning

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant idea of the Black Wall. Kudos to Arathi for that. Perseverance for Four long years !! waiting for responses!! And the final nail on the Wall, with the Engineer’s Phone number , was a Master stroke. The Lake has become clean. !! Perseverance. Pays. As the Saibaba says, Shraddha aur Saburi. Best Wishes to the Lakeika Team and the tireless Leaders.

    Sent from my iPhone



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