Sunday, March 8, 2015

Konkon Reise - Netravati to Sabarmati: Part IV – Mumbai, the Maximum City (Day 2)

Main activity on day 2 was visiting Dharavi Slum. From Bangalore itself, I booked a tour with ‘Reality Tours and Travels’ for the same. This agency conducts verity of tours in Mumbai and one of it is – Dharavi Slum Tour.

After having breakfast from Aummu Chehi’s home; I went to Mahim Jn which is close to Dharavi.


Contrary to what people say, this is not the largest slum either in world or in Asia.

As per National Geographic,

“Until the late 19th century, this area of Mumbai was mangrove swamp inhabited by Koli fishermen. When the swamp filled in (with coconut leaves, rotten fish, and human waste), the Kolis were deprived of their fishing grounds—they would soon shift to bootlegging liquor—but room became available for others. The Kumbhars came from Gujarat to establish a potters' colony. Tamils arrived from the south and opened tanneries. Thousands traveled from Uttar Pradesh to work in the booming textile industry. The result is the most diverse of slums, arguably the most diverse neighborhood in Mumbai”

Located in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi spread over 535 acres of land and have around 300k to 1mn people (depends on whose number you want to believe). It is also estimated that this area have a turnover of $500mn.

Mahim Jn

At 10AM our guide Cheeku came to Mahim Jn. There were five people in the group – me, one guy from Holland, another one from New York; one gentleman is from Switzerland and a lady from England. We crossed Mahim Railway Foot Over Bridge and reached slum. Cheeku told us not to take any photos while we are inside the slum, after all residents many not like others photographing them – especially after the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

As per Cheeku the slum is divided in to Commercial and Residential areas. Industries which creates/consumes a lot of toxic materials during their operation are located in the commercial area.
First we went to one such area where a person was crushing old plastic waste using a locally made equipment. There seems to have a lot of units dedicated for plastic waste recycling. Guide told us that the equipment is also manufactured in the slum itself.

Then we moved on to an Aluminium smeltering unit; where a couple of guys were separating Aluminium and Iron from industrial waste. This Aluminium parts were later put into a pot placed over a fire-herth. Due to high temperature Aluminium would melt instantly and they pour this liquid aluminium to various moulds to make Aluminium bars.

There were some more industries like this. After seeing a couple of them we moved towards areas where soap and eatery units are located.

Next place to go were Leather Bag manufacturing units. As per Cheeku, tanneries are banned in Mumbai; hence the leather for these units are currently coming from Chennai. As per him, most of these bags would go to foreign countries as less people use leather products in that part of India.

From the areas where above said industries are located, we walked towards residential areas. But what Cheetu told about religious divide really shocked us. As per him, earlier people from the same area stayed together. For e.g people from Tamil Nadu stayed at one place and people from UP stayed at a different corner. This make sense because they spoke almost same language and culturally also there isn’t much difference.

Destruction of Babri masjid – located more than fourteen hundred kilometres away - changed everything. Riots broke out, and this grouping also changed – now its religion wise. Hindus and Muslim areas. I really wonder how people staying together at such a small area can really fight each other because someone destroyed a mosque at such a distant place or someone killed some others somewhere in a distant land?

Dharavi is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Lanes are so small and congested that it’s really hard to walk. During rainy season water may come inside rooms located in ground floor. Hence rooms in first floor carries a premium rent.

Toilets are common and less in number, which invariably affects ladies. At this point of time, the guy from Holland asked a question about toilets. What is the problem in building some toilets if money is available? Well, I also don’t have an answer. Why not build a couple of toilets?

After spending some two plus hours, we finally reached an area occupied by potters – potters colony. It is at this place where they create pots.

Cheetu concluded by saying that he wanted to show us a different face of Dharavi, which is not merely the slums and poverty but it’s industrial and creative side of it. Well, he didn’t say the exact word I mentioned here :)

Bandra- Worli Sealink

Going through the sea link was there in the agenda. I took a local from Mahim and went to Bandra. What I though was, I could board a bus from Bandra and go to Worli through sealink.

What I don’t know then was, buses are not allowed in sea link. As a matter of fact, I didn’t check it in net. As a matter of fact, one Police guard at Bandra West told me that I need to take a taxi for travelling through sea link.

I was about to go to a taxi stand, but for verifying the information I checked with one more guy - a shop keeper. He told me that, bus is available from Bandra East. So I went to Bandra East and then walked towards the main road. Whomever I asked, they all told that the bus stop is just there, as if some hundred meters away. I walked and walked but never saw a single bus going through sea link. By this time I checked with multiple traffic and law and order police personals and locals. Two guys even told me the bus number!!! Which of course I never able to find.

Finally one taxi driver told me that, bus is not allowed in sea link. Finally I hired his taxi to go through. Entry fees to sea link was 55 INR. He took me through the sea link and then to Dadar Station. Mumbai’s famous Siddi Vinayak temple is on this way.

By the time I reached Dadar I was very much tired due to lengthy walks. So no more journeys; boarded a train from Dadar to Ammu Chechi’s home.


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