After having had a very good time during the Diwali celebration, I decided to see some of the “other part” of Mumbai. So on Saturday I went to Dharavi. For those of you who don’t know, Dharavi is known as the biggest slum in India, and also the biggest one in Asia.
Way back in time, Mumbai was not a metropolitan city, but seven islands. At that time Dharavi was located at the northernmost part of the northern island of Mumbai. The original inhabitants of Dharavi were the Kolis, the fisher folk, who lived at the edge of the creek that came in from the Arabian Sea. From around 1900 Mumbai started to grow and with that people from the areas around moved to the city. There were migrants from Maharashtra, and in particular from the Konkan coast, as well as some groups from Gujarat. These folks first settled in southern part of Bombay. The authorities didn’t like that, so they moved whole communities northwards, to Dharavi. Later also other settlers arrived here. Amount them quite a few Muslims from Tamil Nadu. This has leaded to Dharavi being what it is today, a huge mix of people from different places.
So how does Dharavi look like? For me, when we talk about slums, it is important to distinguish between two kinds of slums. One is the permanent slums, like Dharavi. The other one are temporary slums that grow up like everywhere. With the new building boom in Mumbai a lot of workers come to the city. They are not allowed to build any permanent buildings, so they put up their tents everywhere close to the building areas. In Mumbai this is called “temporary buildings”, but to me it looks much more like a slum area, and much poorer than what you can see in Dharavi.
I still can not say that I have seen the whole Dharavi, but at least part of it. To me Dharavi is a lot of small houses, mostly just two floors. It look not to fancy, that is true, but it did not look that extremely poor either. Maybe I have not seen the worst parts of it.
Today the biggest problems with Dharavi are probably two problems. One is that most of the people living there are there illegally. This makes it extremely difficult for the government to eventually move these people if they should like to do something with the area. The other main problem is probably the way the houses are constructed. With only two floors and even if people are living quite crowded it is possible to use the place very efficient. If you compare to Hirarnandai, where most buildings are 20-30 floors, you easily see the difference.
If you would like to read more about Dhavarai I can recommend the book “Rediscovering Dharavi” by Kalpana Sharma.
One funny thing happened yesterday. I got a friend invitation at Linked in from a person I did not know at all. I was a bit suspicious that this was a person who might want to sell me something so I mailed him back. It then just turned out that he was a regular reader of my blog and also a blogger himself. So off course Sarang, I have no problem to be a friend with you! I can also recommend his blog http://www.sforsarang.com. It is some quite interesting reading.
Talk to you soon