Mumbai - Round 2 (Day 2)

February 22, 2008 - Bombay, India

The next day 8 of us signed up for a Dharvi Slum tour. The company we booked with prides itself on very much respecting the area and the people. They do not allow tour participants to take photos, 80% of their profit goes back to the area and they run a English school for kids. It was started by a British backpacker and a local resident. The tour company split us into two groups, each group getting a car, a driver and a guide.

Before getting to Dharvi we stopped at the massive outdoor laundry facility. This was originally built by the British to wash their army's uniforms. Now, this facility is responsible for doing most of Mumbai's laundry - hotels, businesses etc. It is made up of separate stalls which are leased out to individuals who then run mini businesses. We were told that 10,000 people a day work there, washing clothes by hand. The photos only show a small part of this very large place.

There are 2000 slums in Mumbai. It is said that 55% of the city's population live in slums and shanty towns. Only slums that existed before 1985 have proper status from the city which gives them certain rights. Slums after that date can be demolished by the city. Some slums are being developed by builders, under agreement with the city, in which 25 percent of what they build go to existing residents and the remaining they can build for profit. There needs to be 70 percent vote of a slum (if it has slum status otherwise the city can do it without agreement) to let this happen. Although the conditions would be better, proper building, the space alloted for a whole family (225 sq. ft!) would be less then what they currently have and therefore losing the space to operate a business.

Dharvi is the largest slum in Asia - not Mumbai, not India but Asia. There is a million people in a very small area. It kind of acts like it's own city. In fact, there is a lot of industry in the slum, estimated to be $700 million a year! We toured a plastic recycling businesses where they separate, grind, wash and dry plastic to be used again. They in fact manufacure the recycling machine in Dharvi which they export to other countries. We were also shown tanners, potters and women making and drying pappadums. At one point we walked through a residential area which was a maze of very narrow alleys. It was so tight that I only had an inch or two on each side of my shouldrs. We had to watch where we were stepping but also duck to avoid stray wires and other obstacles. There were random doors along the alleys which led to people's homes. At one point where the alleys crossed there was a very little variety store which was probably 6 ft by 6 ft. If you came across someone you have to stop, turn sideways to let them by. The whole area was rather claustrophobic and some people spend there entire lives there. The final step of our tour was going to one of the guides home in the slum to complete a feedback form. The guide lives there with his mom and two sisters. We took off our shoes and sat on the hard surfaced floor of what looked like their kitchen. Under the circumstances the kitchen was a decent size, however we then realized this was their entire home. We were sitting where the whole family sleeps at night.

In the afternoon I went to a couple hotels to confirm reservations that I had made a couple weeks earlier. Long story but neither hotel could accommodate me on my return to Mumbai after Goa even though I had made a booking. Hotel managers Mumbai should really watch that Seinfeld episode where Jerry says 'you know how to take a reservation, you just don't know how to hold a reservation'. Rather frustrating.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out before heading to the train station for our trip to the sea side area of Goa.


Night Train in India
Night Train in India
Night Train in India
Mumbai's Laundry Room

1 Comment

March 19, 2008
Oh my GOD you two! There are like a BILLION pictures on this website! This is AMAZING. What an incredible trip. When in God's name are you coming back - it feels like you have been gone forever! G and I are doing well - I feel embarrassed to even be writing an update as our lives are sooooooo boring compared to yours! We just got back from Mexico - that's cool right? I bought some bean salad from Loblaws -is that interesting? I've been watching American Idol? Anyone interested? Anyone? Hee hee. Well listen - come back safely and soon. We can't wait to see you both! Take care, love Bridge
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