What is your perception of a Slum?

Trip Start May 10, 2011
Trip End Apr 15, 2012

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Flag of India  ,
Thursday, May 12, 2011

So yesterday we went on the Dharavi slum tour where parts of Slumdog Millionaire were filmed - some might say its not really right for us westerners to be on a "tour" wandering around a slum staring at these people and their living conditions but the tour company actually put 80% of the profits back into supporting education and kindergarten for the children and also a community centre and all the residents are aware of this only tour company doing this so its no surprise to them to see us - on top of that we are travelling to see different things so its only natural we want to see and experience.....  

One of the first questions he asked us was what is your perception of a slum??? Answers such as poverty, dirtyness, jobless people were of course top of the list and looking from the bridge over into the slum where we were standing those answers seemed to fit !

We spent over 2 hours walking round the most fascinating place ever - the area is 1.75 square km but has around a million people living in it - there are 2 sections one commercial and one residential - this place has supermarkets, police offices, hospital and doctors its a city within a city.

We first went round the commercial side - these people recycle everything from old paint cans to huge metal tubs of oil, plastics, textiles, pottery with a turnaround of $600 million US dollars a year.  We saw how they melt cut up and melt down plastics in very toxic conditions, guys sitting in tiny spaces sorting plastics, we climbed up onto the roof where they dry the plastics which on a slum building was pretty scary although took the weight of all of us thankfully.

These guys work their backsides off to earn a living most of the people in the commercial side come from outwith the slum from around india to work - many for 10 months of the year then during the monsoon they go back home to their families for 2 months to give money and then return to work - they have no homes they sleep on the floor in the building they work in, even though they work 10-12 hour days they still cannot afford to rent a home in the slum!!!!

As for the residential side wow - on average FIVE people live in 2.4m squared spaces which is also space to wash and cook- this space costs around 30 per month!  Water and elec is turned on for 3 hours a day of which they pay bills for too.

We were taken through the TINY alleys where there are electic wires everywhere, we had to duck to get under certain bits, no doors on the homes just curtains - children playing happily and saying hi to us as we squeezed though the small alleyways trying not to step in the sewage drains that ran alongside or trip up it was dark and cramped and goodness knows how the find their way about it was like a maze.

We passed babies only barely walking old climbing stairs I would struggle to get up, some some just crawling around on the paths only months old, kids in groups playing dolls, boys playing cricket, tiny tiny kittens, loads of goats, chickens and i saw one rat !

As for jobs these people living in these slums are not all poor many people work in banks, offices and almost all of the children get education.  There is 40% muslim and 50% hindu community who live side by side, as i said there are no doors stealing is not an issue - by the time we left the tour it was evident these people live in harmony with a very strong sense of community and most of all the seemed happy, the people with the good jobs still choose to live here !   

Its hard to put it all into words what we experienced it was smelly in areas and dirty but inside the houses people were sweeping and taking care of their area with a sense of pride - they were friendly and the kids were delighted to come up and touch us and shake our hands and ask our names these people work hard look after each other.

On leaving he asked us again do we have the same thoughts on what a slum was and it couldn't have been more different from the thoughts we had when we went in I almost felt ashamed to think what I did after doing the tour and seeing how it really was - there is a lot we could learn from these people from recycling to that sense of community - it was definitely something we wont forget !

We we not allowed any pics inside but this is the company with some pics on it

Tour cost 7 each

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steff_lin on

so great to read your blog!!!!! fantastic start to a fantastic journey and can't wait for future blog entries! ENJOY!!!!!

StephenMullan on

Great blog post, what you saying is so true, when visiting slums in South Africa, sounds very similar, the people are so poor yet seem so happy with what they have, we could all in a way learn from that, glad you are having a great time, hope you enjoy Goa, its so annoying that you are only an hours flight away and i cant come. S xxx

Auntie Carol on

puts life into perpective . I am sure you will appreciate the simple things like cleanliness even more from experiencing the life of tese people . xx

mhairi grant on

Hi guys hope your both ok, been waiting on the next blog! really enjoying reading the ones posted, should be in Goa by now, keep in touch love mum xx

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