During my trip to Mumbai in February 2015, I was fortunate to learn about the Dharavi Slum through Reality Tours which funds an NGO called Reality Gives. The Dharavi Slum is the biggest slum in Asia with an estimated population between 700,000 to around one million and most famously known in “Slumdog Millionaire”.
The reason I decided to take a tour through Dharavi was to become educated and understand the whole concept of a slum. There are many misconceptions of a slum and I wanted to break down the stereotype and somewhat educate people about the life in Dharavi. A slum is not just a place that houses thousands of underprivileged people but it is also a booming commercial area which includes the plastic, pottery, leather and embroidered garments industry. It is the most productive slum in the world and it is a billion dollar industry with many business generating millions of dollars in income. Within Dharavi Slum it’s like any community with schools, banks, shops, hospital, restaurants and a farmer market. The Dharavi Slum is divided between into industrial and residential area plus a Muslim and Hindu area due to conflict from the past.
Walking through Dharavi the locals go about their daily life with the occasional stare. I witness a man selling fairy floss to children and men going about their work on the main road. Walking through the industrial area the men were physically hard at work, we stop by the aluminum factory where men were exposed to the dangerous by-products of burning aluminum. Health factor is a serious concern but unfortunately for these people, it is a way they make a living. Nevertheless, we should feel so privilege for our safe working conditions where most of us take it for granted. Walking through the narrow alleyways with open sewages scattered around, I saw children chasing each other and laughing. Hearing the children laugh made me smile and I got to enjoy the moment of observing these children being children, with no worries in the world.
Going across to the resident area I observe a woman making bread while watching their children play cricket intensely. Walking down another street, I saw children sitting on the front of their houses doing their school homework or chatting enthusiastically. Nevertheless walking down the alleyways and streets I can’t help but notice how the children seem to be happy and smiling at us and trying to start a conversation. It might be due to us being foreigners walking around in their community and being extremely curious or are these children genially happy? Nevertheless walking through Dharavi has been an eye opener and I do question myself why did I become so lucky in life and why not others? Throughout the tour I kept asking myself how can I make an impact on these peoples and how can awareness be shared around? In retrospect to life be thankful for what you have because it can always be worse.
Till next time, -M
*Due to the tour rules of no photographs and videos in respect of the people in Dharavi and with the permission from Reality Tours, they have kindly provided photos for this blog.