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Sign of the times – mumbai guide


Stop wearing your masks on your neck. Stop looking at yourself in video calls. Unblock your dad on Facebook before posting Happy Father’s Day stories. Stop going to the aarti just for the prasad. Your Facebook avatar doesn’t even look like you. To those that share unsolicited free gyaan at all times, Happy Teacher’s Day.

How many times have we yelled these thoughts out loud in our head? Nilraj Kadam, a Mumbai-based digital content creator can be seen across various parts of the city holding a corrugated cardboard placard, carrying hilarious one-liners about these everyday idiosyncrasies. These have been tickling people’s funny bones, not only on the streets but also on social media. Raking in thousands of likes and a devoted fan base, the page signboard_wala has become an instant hit among millennials on Facebook and Instagram. Run by city-based media graduates from MD College, Kadam and Vaidehi Salvi, the page was inspired by the viral US-based Instagrammer Dude with sign who shot to fame last year with his funny placards on everyday problems.

Nilraj Kadam dropping truth bombs on travelling in a crowded train. PicS/@signboard_Wala on Instagram
Nilraj Kadam dropping truth bombs on travelling in a crowded train. PicS/@signboard_Wala on Instagram

And while the concept is certainly inspired, what sets the signboard_wala apart is the desi twist. Set in a recognisable, highly relatable Indian context, every post that you scroll through on the page gives you an instant serotonin boost and might even make you snort with laughter.

“One of the first posts we put out in February was captioned Satya ghatnao pe adharit, because people farting in crowded trains has been our lived reality. And when the photo that we clicked outside CSMT station garnered a viral response, it instantly gave us the impetus to keep making more relatable posts,” shares Salvi.

Kadam posing with one of the viral signboards on the plight of bikers
Kadam posing with one of the viral signboards on the plight of bikers

Kadam adds how the focus for the two of them was to not only keep the content as funny and relatable to millennials as possible, but also throw in some social messaging when events around them demanded it. And so it meant launching Coronavirus advisories about wearing masks right, or picking up a flag discarded on the floor after Independence Day — they did not shy away from educating followers on those topics too.

When asked about the response from junta on the streets, Kadam adds, “When we first started shooting, the initial reaction was surprise and curiosity. It made people stop by and read the punchlines. The placards would make people returning after a long day at work smile. When we went to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival with a placard on how people visiting the festival should stop clicking selfies and click art installations instead, it was a joy to see them flash a thumbs up or a big, toothy smile.”

Nilraj Kadam and Vaidehi Salvi
Nilraj Kadam and Vaidehi Salvi

Thankfully, the nation-wide lockdown didn’t end their inspired signage project. “Sitting at home, we created 20 more placards all inspired by the many moods and hilarious struggles of the lockdown,” adds Kadam. The duo has been approached by brands for partnerships too. But the biggest takeaway is the love they have garnered and the loyal fan base of 10,000 followers on Facebook and over 5,000 on Instagram.

“We began with the simple idea of showcasing observations that everyone makes but never discusses. Laced with humour, we knew our message would get across. We wanted people to smile as they scrolled through social media or saw us on the streets. But got a lot more than we bargained for,” quips Salvi.

With admirers, come critiques and trolls. “Trolls don’t think about the effort that goes into creating content before dropping cuss words in the comments section. But our loyal followers go the extra mile to defend us. I believe if people are hell-bent at getting offended, they will find offence in the most harmless things. But we stay unbothered and only take constructive criticism. It’s a page to make people laugh. And we want it to stay like that,” Kadam signs off.

Log on to @signboard_wala on Instagram

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