Mumbai, whose name comes from the Hindu goddess Mumba Devi, is the capital of the state of Maharashtra and is made up of the union of several islands in the Arabian Sea, in a process of gaining ground in the sea.
Formerly called Bombay, it is the most populous city in India and the fourth in the world. It is also the richest in her country. The city is the main economic center of India and is home to one of the largest film industries in the world.
Being a cosmopolitan city, it represents an important cultural center that has numerous universities, theaters, museums and galleries. Mumbai is said to never sleep.
Mumbai's architecture is a mix of Gothic Revival styles and contemporary designs. The main train station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria) has been declared a World Heritage Site, as have the Victorian and art deco buildings in South Mumbai.
Mumbai would be India's "American dream", where migrants seek business and employment opportunities and where young people chase their dreams of becoming the new movie-star. This rapid expansion has led to housing problems, housing is scarce and its cost is excessively high, which is why 50% of its residents are forced to live in the slums, this is around of 10 million people living without basic services.
With the award-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) this reality became known throughout the world. Dharavi (cover photo) served as the location for several of his scenes.
In the following photo you can see the Taj Palace, a luxury hotel, icon of Mumbai.
Dharavi is the largest slum in Mumbai in terms of density, with one million people living on 1.7 square km. It is the second most populous in the world after Orangi Town in Pakistan. It is also the most literate shanty town in the country, with a rate of 69%.
In the 18th century, Dharavi was a mangrove island and a populated town inhabited by Koli fishermen until, in 1887, it received the leather industry, one of the most polluting, from mainland Mumbai. Leathermaking is typically a profession of the lower Hindu castes and Muslim Indians. In addition he also began to receive the Kumbars, a large community of potters from Gujarat.
The colonial government awarded them a 99-year land lease in 1895. Rural migrants looking for work arrived in Mumbai and its population skyrocketed to more than 1 million. Other artisans, such as embroidery workers in Uttar Pradesh, started the ready-made garment trade. These industries created jobs, but there was no government effort to plan or invest in any infrastructure in or near Dharavi. Homes and small-scale factories grew randomly, without provisions for sanitation, drains, drinking water, roads, or other basic services. But some ethnic, caste and religious communities that settled in Dharavi at that time helped build the settlement, forming organizations and political parties, building schools and temples, houses and factories. Dharavi's first mosque, Badi Masjid, was erected in 1887, and the oldest Hindu temple, Ganesh Mandir, was built in 1913.
Dharavi was soon surrounded by the city and became a key center for the informal economy. Beginning in the 1950s, various proposals for Dharavi's redevelopment plans were launched periodically, but most of these plans failed due to lack of financial and political support.
The Dharavi Housing Cooperative Society was formed in the 1960s to raise the lives of thousands of people on Shri's initiative. M.V. Duraiswamy, well-known social woman worker and congress leader from that region.
Dharavi, who occupies one of the most sought-after land in Mumbai, is its productive heart. Its narrow streets hide more than 15,000 one-room factories. An important activity is the recycling of plastics to make them reusable; these proud workers tell us that they are the ones who clean India
Industrial soap making
Dharavi has dozens of tanneries, which transform the skin, mainly of goats, into clothes, shoes and wallets that are later sold by sophisticated European brands at a price multiplied by thousands.
Total turnover (and much of the informal work) is estimated at between $ 650 million and $ 1 trillion per year, while residents' per capita income ranges from $ 500 to $ 2000 per year.
We decided to include Dharavi in our trip because he is a substantial part of Mumbai. Previously, an acquaintance had introduced us to Mohammad, a young sociology student and resident of Dharavi, who could serve as a guide for our group. In addition, he also teaches English for free to the children of his community, actually he is not the only one, we found out about different NGOs that are in charge of improving the living conditions of its inhabitants, providing educational and recreational activities to children and young people like cricket, yoga, painting, music and others.
To enter Dharavi you must cross a pedestrian bridge and access its main street. It is like a small city with its schools, mosques, temples, banks, shops, food stalls and a mini cinema. Upon entering the streets they become alleys, some very dark, others very narrow, others it is necessary to walk carefully from the low hanging electrical cables. Curious children come out of the house to say hello in amazement, with those warm Indian smiles, difficult to match.
Bathrooms are few and for community use.
We are told that the people of Dharavi did not like the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" because it says it reinforces prejudice (poverty as a synonym for crime) and leaves out the story of the hard work, organization and efforts of its millions of population.
India is certainly a world of contrasts and the two faces of Mumbai reveal, without hiding, the inequality of the world we inhabit.
One thing is certain: happiness has little to do with this, it is something that is within people.