Tanvi Juwale writes about her encouter and eye wash about Asia’s biggest slum: Dharavi
How many of us have actually carried on with what the crowd tells us? It is not very unusual of us to stop and verify some fact and perhaps be prejudiced. DHARAVI: to every one who knows what it is: Asia’s biggest slum, perhaps an area to be away from or even an area which shelters the evil in the society. Just like a paradigm, like how Hansel smeared the witches glasses swith butter, we are compelled to think that slums are bad, and that they house a lot of anti social activities. While I sat in the train that took me to Mahim to meet Salman, our tour guide I didn’t really know what to expect from this little tour. We met at the ticket counter with another colleague of mine and an Australian couple who had been there just out of curiosity about the largest slum in Asia. During a brief given to us before the trip, Salman asked us whether we had visited this area before. I had to admit I never had, not even once in the 21 years of my life in this city. None of us had visit this city and we could only be amazed at the statistics Salman gave us, Dharavi contributes about 6 billion dollars a year to the economy and we wouldn’t find anyone sitting idle or begging for money. If they units are working, everyone will be busy working; which is also why we were prohibit from clicking any photographs to respect their privacy and to stop them from working. Stunned at this I descended the stairs, I could only be amazed at the efficiency of this area which has sheltered a nexus of massive manufacturing and processing industries. We head to the 13th Industrial Estate to start our encounter was with an almost noisy place filled with thin lankymen in greasy clothes crouched on the floor near big baskets with rooms filled with waste plastic. No rocket science this was the plastic industry. The noise was a machine churning out crushed plastic. Rag pickers wander about the town to gather spare, thrown, unused plastic is brought here and then sold which further goes to be sorted only manually and then broken down into pellets and to be sold to manufacturers for further processing. Snaking our way through the narrow by-lanes of Dharavi we learnt a lot about the industries, residential areas also, how these people could accommodate everyone. Later during a conversation with the Tausif Siddique, one of the founders of the Be The Local; I came to know that because of such a close knit community, and through ages of struggle, the people have a very strongly connected community. “Every kid knows what Eid and Ramadan is and what Pongal or Ganesha Chaturthi as well. And we talk about integrity! After walking for a while we encountered the industry that for which Dharavi is well known: Leather. Keeping the regulations in mind, Dharavi isn’t home to any tanneries but to various leather processing units. Now, leather is a lucrative industry but the work involves exposure to hazardous chemicals. As Salman explained to us the process of making various leather goods I felt my swirl and that was only 30 seconds into the place. I am more than astonished at the tolerance of these workers. The only incentive here to know was that this particular industry, was the major revenue inflow contributing to about 3/4 of the 6 billion dollar. Sometimes we can get an eyewash from the least expected places, such was my journey to this the Asia’s biggest slum, house to numerous industries and a mini economy in itself. This was like an insight to what Dharavi is and isn’t.
What Dharavi is: A mini economy, a mini industrial are which is beyond efficient and a nexus of various businesses employing more people than a lot of other areas in Mumbai. What it isn’t: a shady shanty area of residents that fit into the dark areas of the city. I learn about this as a part of my project in social journalism.