Third day passed and it was nothing less than eye opening. We reserved a tour with the Reality Tours and travel, that take you to Dharavi slum – one of the Asia’s largest slum. It is difficult to see that on your own that is why we decided to go with Reality tours as they are also on top of to do things on Trip Advisor. They are a social business that supports Dharavi community by sharing the profits of the tours by their sister NGO, Reality Gives.
Dharavi slum is one of the biggest in Asia. There is about 1,2 million people living there. The density is huge, around 500.000 people live on 1 square km. It’s quite unimaginable. We met the guides – Sunny and Rajhes at the Churchgate train station. We were a big group of people, around 11. We headed towards the slum with a 30 minute long train ride. It was Sunday so the trains were not crowded at all. Quite lucky probably, as Sunny said that every day through Monday to Saturday 7,5 million people travel DAILY! With Mumbai trains. Unthinkable really! The wagon has a place for 160 people and normally around 400 drive in them. To get into a train is an everyday accomplishment. We came to our destination and as we had two guides we continued the tour together eventough we were a bigger group. They normally split you up but we were good! The first glance of the place is already a bit uncomfortable, but Sunny explains that people living on the edge on the road are not those from the slums. They are those without a job, clean water, electricity and a house and they just move from place to place when police forces them to move. The pictures are unfortunately not allowed because when Reality tours began their touring they made a deal with Dharavi communities that tourists are allowed inside but no photos should be taken. All the pictures here are provided by the Reality Tours and travel. Anyway the tour lasts 2,5 hours and it clearly opens your mind about living in slums. It is a huge community inside the slum that is basically a city on its own. They have jobs, education, hospital, police and even fireworkers.
There is a commercial part and residential part of the slums. In the commerical part everything is made, from recycling 80% of the plastics in Mumbai, aluminium, leather and pottery making. You get the idea that these people can do anything! Their daily profit is around 200 Rs, that is 3,5 $ per day. The work they do is of course dangerous, health hazardous and tough. A lot of people from whole of India come to work here and it somehow the system works. The government passed a law in 1992 that made slums legal, at least the properties in the slums are legal. They have their own electricity, address, water (that is regulated to the hours when the water is available). Therefore officially they are no different from those living in Mumbai itself. Even our guides were actually still living in the slums as for them this is the best option now, because it is still the cheapest. Mumbai is really expensive so affording to rent a home opin the city can be impossible. We got a chance to have a look at different industries, leather, pottery, aluminium. The number of factories are measured in thousands and is really unthinkable. Leather pieces for Prada, Bluberry are mostly from here. We also got to see the sanitary part of the slum. The government is trying to sort of this and around 7000 public bathrooms should have been built in the area but because of corruption they have only 700! 1.500 thousand people use 1 bathroom! Yep, not kidding. You really think about the things that for us are an everyday thing, here is a luxury or it even doesn’t exist. That is why most of the people still use the ‘natural’ bathroom if you know what I mean. We took a walk through the residental part of the slum. The narrow and small passages, small rooms where around 7-10 people live and their way of living is a completely different world. It’s hard to describe with words. There are various communities living here, muslim, hindu and other indian people. They go along really good, the guide said. You can see a mosque on one side and a hindu temple on the other side. Religion doesn’t matter. After a 2,5 hours walk we finished the tour at the Reality travels office and slowly headed back home with the train. It is hard to describe everything with my words but I got a sense that they live their own life in the slums. They work, live and somehow function great inside this community. The government even if they wanted cannot move the people to live in the appartments as it is still too much of work to be done. The life in a slum is cheaper and eventough the sanitary is not good at all, access to water is limited, I still imagined that the situation would be worse. It is not good at all but people want to survive and make a living for their families, so they will do anything. Even work in the aluminium factory at 1000 Degrees melting the aluminium barefoot and bare handed because they need the money and they need to survive. It was an eye opening experience and I definately recommend everyone that have this opportunity to take it and be amazed. Suddenly all of your problems seems so small and really not important. The rest of the day was spent relaxing from the heat outside and going for a lunch at a nearby restaurant, Hotel Deluxe sounds deluxe but it wasn’t really. The food was very good tough! Chicken kerala with some spicy sauces was a great end of the day. We were still the only tourists in a small place and it was obvious we were ‘interesting’ for them. Tomorrow a trip to Bangalore! We drove with a train and a bus, now we can see how the domestic airlines function. Impressions of the day:
- Appreciate what you have because most of the people live on much less