Mumbai – September 2008

Dharavi is one of Asia’s largest slums, with a reported population of around 2 million people.  I remember the first time I went to India and as the plane landed in Mumbai I was shocked by the shanty towns which seemed never-ending..

Last year I visited a shanty town in Dharavi (pictures here) and I wanted to go back to the same one to see the children there, but I was told the place had been destroyed due to a gas explosion.  I can only guess what happened to a lot of the kids there.

The homes here are so cramped – there’s barely any space to move.  It was a challenge trying to navigate between the debris on the floor without falling over.  Then again, you can only really fall into walls..

I noticed many households where people were sewing beads or sequins onto clothing.  I asked who they were doing this for but they said the work is given to them from the factories, and labels are put on the clothing only once they’re complete.

It’s very likely these clothes are to be shipped to the ‘West’ to be sold for a ridiculous amount compared to what these Indians get paid for their intricate work.  It’s something to think about when you wear something that has “Made In India” on its label.  Just think, that pretty £50 skirt from Topshop would have been hand-sown by a shanty town worker, which probably took hours, for which they’d be lucky to get 10p for.

People here, especially children, love being photographed.  This seems to be universal throughout India.  I’m not sure whether it’s because these kids have probably never seen an SLR camera before, or if it’s just that they love the attention.  Maybe both?

Renting one of the ground floor ‘homes’ here costs around 3000 rupees a month, which is roughly £30 (or USD 60).  However, the ones on the second floor are just half the price:

It’s no wonder that many accidents take place in these slums.  It’s hard enough walking on the ground in these areas, let alone climbing ladders, especially for the elderly, or those with babies.  If pensioners in the UK or any other developed nation were made to climb ladders like these to get to their rooms, there’d be public outcry!  It’s funny how standards and expectations vary so much across nations, yet we’re all human with the same physical capabilities.

More people, including children, sewing beads onto clothes:

This man, like many others, wanted me to take a picture of him:

I have so many unposted pictures that I’ve taken because people have asked me to take them, and I’ve felt too bad to say no, even if I don’t think they’d make great shots.  Maybe I should do a series on those sometime.

On the outskirts of Dharavi are shops where the inhabitants work and/or go to do their shopping.  This is one of the clinics there:

Quite a contrast to the ones I’m used to seeing!  If I were ill, I don’t think I’d want to step foot in there..

Although I’ve taken many pictures in India, it still amazes me how children suddenly appear and place themselves in front of the camera.  I was trying to take a picture of the goat here, when a crowd of kids surrounded me:

That poor goat had it’s picture hijacked!

This man below wanted me to take a picture of his baby.  Er, clearly I mucked up the composition on this one! Oh well, at least I got the baby’s forehead in.

This elderly woman was brushing her hair and I thought it’d make a great picture, except she noticed me and got shy as her head wasn’t covered.  Many old Indian women cover their heads out of respect.

This boy was following me for ages shouting “Aunty! Aunty!” as many of the children do.

I turned around and he didn’t know what to do, so he just stood in the middle of the road and I took his picture.

So here is how the sewage ‘system’ works in Dharavi.  Waste from the ‘toilets’ go straight out into this river, along with whatever else is thrown in.

Lovely, huh?

Dharavi is located in a prime hotspot, right next to some quite affluent areas.  It’s very likely the whole slum will be destroyed soon to make room for further developments, leaving millions of people displaced.  If you think these conditions are bad, at least the people here have a roof over their heads right now.

Moreover, so many people here seem content – I don’t think I took a single picture here depicting sadness or sorrow.  It seems a shame that these homes could be destroyed to make way for the rich essentially.  Once again this demonstrates the huge divide between the rich and poor in India, and across the world in fact.  The lives of the poor are worth a lot less than those of the rich.  Money always dictates.

India 2008

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