Sunday, 10 May 2009

In the Field + Salaam mumbai

Friday's speakers at SPARC were Gautam Chatterjee (CEO of MHADA and Officer on Special Duty for the DRP) and Jockin Arputham (President of NSDF). All of the people scheduled to talk with us at SPARC play interesting roles related to the DRP, but today was HUGE (that one isn't an acronym). Unfortunately it seems that the more information we acquire about the case and the more its complexities are understood, the more we realize our restricted room for maneuver. How does one suggest an appropriate solution both for the city of Mumbai and for the hundreds of thousands of Dharavi's residents? How can the diversity within Dharavi's nagars be appropriately nurtured, with their distinct identities intact, in any redevelopment plan?

As Mr. Jockin put it, we need to remove our professional biases, step aside from our position of authority, and see what we can learn from the urban poor. In the afternoon, we did just that in Chambra Bazaar. We spoke with a woman who lives with her husband and 5 children in a one-room flat. We listened to her stories of how the family earns money, where her kids go to school, and of her daughter's recent engagement. We were even treated to seeing a family photo album. Their incredible ability to adjust to their constraints was immediately apparent, as was the primacy of the intangibles of their lives: social networks, economic networks of production, history and identity.

I think it must be difficult for someone who has worked so hard to build these networks to imagine their transformation in a redevelopment proposal. Even in a very well-conceived and nuanced plan that intends to nurture livelihoods and sense of place and dignity, it requires a step into the unknown. It is an experiment. One that opens people up to vulnerabilities and uncertainties. After our first full afternoon in Dharavi, I can relate to the apprehension regarding the redevelopment plan. How does one compare the present with a hazy and undefined future?

- Andrew 08.05.09

Salaam Mumbai....

It was the end of our first week in Mumbai. The most hectic and happening one we could have ever imagined. We were adjusting our mind frame to the definition of ‘poverty’ while exploring the slum urbanism of Dharavi.
Being an Indian I never had the idea that I would be exploring this intricate issues of this city with a whole teams of budding development professionals from the different countries of south and north. Although the impoverish image of Mumbai constantly reminded me of Kolkata ,I felt Mumbai was lucky to be the happening city in development. I wished Kolkata had such an opportunity, a forum for having urban debate to solve its issue.
It was interesting to find how my near and dear friends adjusted with lots of patience, in their new environment. From the nonchalant cows in the street to hitting the disc floor in a retrofitted mill, they were confronting the city of contrast. At personal level I was a discovering, learning and redefining the city through the lens of people we were meeting every day. For me the city seemed to be very unpredictable. It reveals everyday with surprises which changes my impression on it. It’s adjusting, soft, and fluid.The liquid city..Salam Mumbai.

-Debeshi 10.05.09

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