Monday, August 13, 2007

Slums of Hope

Dilip D'Souza
wrote today in :

“Not so far from (Bombay) airport, about a million (people) live in what is often called ‘Asia's largest slum’. I've often wondered whether that label is used with pride or shame. If you walk into Dharavi, if you spend a day or two just wandering about, the best answer might be both. It shames India that so many Indians live in the conditions you find there. But at the same time, there is such a lot going on. Such a lot of drive, industry, vibrancy, enterprise. So much spirit. In such squalid conditions, all that cannot but lift you.”

“Dharavi is no place for the squeamish. But neither is it a place for the lazy, the apathetic, the moaners. In more ways than one, this throbbing heart of Bombay is India. Also in more ways than one, it forces you to see what India could be, and what's holding it back.”

“Dharavi encapsulates much of what is wrong in India today. Open drains, piles of uncleared garbage, filth and pitiful shacks are everywhere. Why do so many people have to live like this?”

But Dharavi is more than just squatter homes.

“…… this corner of India produces everything from garments to tallow to watch-strap buckles to lip-smacking savouries like chikki, much of it for export. Much of this activity is illegal and unsafe, but that matters to nobody. For these reasons, for decades now, for all its awful squalor, Dharavi has been a magnet of opportunity that has reached out to every corner of the country. There are people here from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and elsewhere; and of course from Maharashtra itself.”

“…….. this is a place where every free square metre is an opportunity to start a business, where the children of destitute migrants from dusty Bihar backwaters study software.”

Pictures from Helene Perlembou's public gallery

Video shows resistance against plans for redevelopment
Source: Sparcindia
National Geograhic Feature, May,2007

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