After our first visit in Dharavi, 10-15 days ago I think it was, I got back home and felt that I had to share with friends what I had just seen. I slipped a hundred and fifty rupees to the hotel clerk in exchange for a wi-fi access card. Before even checking my emails, I logged into my facebook account to created the ‘dharavi’ album…
After my internet access card expired, I kept on looking the pictures that I had captured. I already regretted to not have taking a snap of the dude walla chai vendor. Although the image were still clear in my mind, I was worried that if forgotten, I would not have anything to remind me of this fascinating man in a ‘slum’ of India.
Later that night, while talking to Kelvin about what we had seen and done that day, he suggested for Dharavi to be considered as a UNESCO site. I completely agreed. Never had I seen a place so beautifully messy and functional. Everyone worked- they did something, often something little, but never stood still. Without a touch of planning, or so it seems, residential chawls complemented perfectly the manufacturing and retailing units down this city’s swirly paths. The narrow roads were wide enough for delivery rickshaws and trucks to come by, and when they weren’t, someone was waiting by to finish off the route by foot. Inside the units, most of them smaller than any house I had seen before, the people would work and live. Five, or even seven of them sometimes. Somehow, it worked.
The next evening, I again splurged for the hour of wi-fi access. Two friends from India had placed a comment on the album I had posted the day before. They weren’t impressed. As I remember it, the comment when something like “why do foreigners only take pictures of the ugly parts of India?”.
On the follwing day, a smart looking man gave us a talk about the Vision of Mumbai as a World City. His office was in South Mumbai- in a Victorian building if I remember right. The strategy was to replace all informal settlements by ‘better’ buildings; modern ones- to make Bombay look like a city where no one lives in shanty, slums, favellas…or whatever you wish to call them.