Dharavi is said to be the worlds 3rd largest slum, behind Cape Town and one in Kenya. It houses around 1 million people and is deemed to be one of the most densely populated places in the world.
Some parts of it were used in the filming of the film Slumdog Millionaire and within Dharavi they generate hundreds of millions of dollars ($650m to $1bn) from their businesses.
We were a little apprehensive about this trip but Muhammad quickly put us at ease and by the end of our three hour ‘tour’ we left with a completely new perspective of the lives of the people who live there.
Muhammad grew up in Dharavi and knows so many people there, all the photos were taken with the support of the hard working and generous hearted people of this community.
It’s a world away from my previous experiences but it taught me so much about the need to push away prejudices and assumptions, to look into the eyes of these quite inspiring people and their generous hearts.
I only hope these pictures and words go some way to conveying our experience and these exceptional nature of these hard working people.
Not once were we asked for money nor felt at risk, these people walk as equals to us all.
The Businesses of Dharavi
It was amazing to see the diversity of businesses at work within this environment. The numerous working men often working 10-12 hours a day, some working 7 days a week.
Interestingly they are the one of the few areas of this type to have a union to protect workers from exploitation.
These pictures show Potteries with their smoke laden kilns, enough to sting your eyes and the wood burning fires raising the temperature even further than you thought possible
These two men were dyeing clothes, but we managed to interrupt them for a minute to pose for a couple of pictures.
There are so many other businesses at work in Dharavi from leather product makers (check Dharavi leather products online for high quality and great prices!), soap makers, plastic recycling (manual separation), tin recycling and market stalls to many others providing support services like food and coffee to feed and water the workers.
As you enter Dharavi you enter another world, it’s a maze of roads and small alleys, some only accessible single file, with uneven paving stones, low hanging objects and wires. As you navigate you way you stepping past people in their homes, washing their pots and pans as well as businesses alike, it’s a hive of activity. The density of the population and their commercial undertakings make them ever careful of the risk of fire and disease.
Whilst chaotic looking at first glance, it’s worth noting that much of what you see serves a purpose, like sacks of plastic and tin cans being recycled and awaiting dispatch or cleaning or sorting though. The goats provide milk, the water is only on 3 hours a day so they store more for their needs when it’s available.
The Children of Dharavi
One of the most wonderful experiences whilst walking through Dharavi was meeting some of the children there. We were asked our names many times as they practiced their conversational English on us. There are public and private schools available to them and when we asked what they wanted to be we got answers of ‘a Doctor’ or ‘an Astronaut’, their spoken English was great for such young ages and their aspirations were rightly high.
One young school girl invited us back to her home during lunch break time to meet her wonderful family. They were rich in their kindness and generosity to us and that’s a moment I will treasure for many years.
I have to thank our wonderful host Muhammad for guiding us through Dharavi and being patient enough to deal with our many questions. Muhammad uses his tour fees to support his university studies and build his Inside Mumbai business. I couldn’t recommend him more highly and sincerely wish him all the very best for the future.