The kind of a girl – Mumbai

So, Friday in Mumbai and we visit Dharavi slum. We have a cosseted journey on the Mumbai metropolitan train network to get there. Our local station is small, in the sense that there are only 5 or 6 platforms, however the length of the trains is amazing. At the end of each platform sit 3 or 4 men each offering a shoe shine service.

The seats in the carriage are for three people, in facing doubles on both sides of the carriage. At the end of the carriage they have a bench seat across the width of the carriage. This is where we sit. The hand grips above are all metallic, and must be no more than eight inches apart. We imagine peak hour is pretty tight. Station announcements are in English, and are made multiple times coming up to a station.

About one-half of Mumbai’s population live in slums, and at 1.5 square kilometres, Dharavi has just over one million residents. The first thing you need to do is forget English tenement slums you have read about in history lessons. Slum in this sense means homes built on government land, probably illegally. The oldest home dates to 1840. Dharavi is like most other Indian villages we have seen. There is a video cinema, a supermarket of sorts, fresh fruit stalls, fresh fruit juice stalls, and all manner of businesses. There are doctors and pharmacies, and a public hospital and a private hospital. Whilst less than 1% have their own toilet, there are a number of community toilets throughout the slum. There were no beggars to be seen during our visit.

We see women making and drying popadoms, we see a bakery making puff pastry which they export to Afghanistan. We eat one each.

We see all manner of plastic recycling, and vegetable oil can recycling, and paint can recycling, and people making clay pots. We see the kindergarten and the community centre that our tour company funds.

Kerry climbs two flights of a fixed metal ladder to a rooftop for a view of Dharavi. Kerry later climbs another to see the community centre, where the participants, exclusively young women are working on some Excel spreadsheets about foreign countries (population, geographic area, that kind of thing).

We see our first cow and goats of Mumbai, in Dharavi.

The children going to and from school are impeccable in their uniforms, and the women are all well dressed, and certainly in the Hindu areas of the slums, the saris are as bright as we have seen, maybe without the sparkle of other destinations.

We fill in the tour evaluation form, note: all of the local operators we have used are very thorough about getting evaluation forms for all of their services. I think that’s a great thing, although I might prefer you weren’t asked to complete it in the car on the way to the airport, and mine host reads it there and then.

A taxi back to our part of town, for would you believe even more shopping. We discover that DHL courier is not as expensive as we have been led to believe, so at our next stop we intend to unload a few things we can live without until we get home.

We end the night with a horse and carriage ride, which is half an hour and which we think will take us along Marine Drive on the coast, and which we think is 1000 rupees. It is half an hour, we spend barely any time on Marine Drive, and it costs us 1000 rupees each.

Tomorrow. Leave the hotel at 7.45am for a 10:15 flight to Kochi, aka Cochin. The usual caveat applies, we don’t know what kind of Internet access will be in the hotel until we get there. However over the next week we are spending two days on a converted rice barge on the backwaters of Kerala, and I am fairly confident the boat won’t have Internet access.

No photographs of Dharavi, because it is not allowed by our tour company, but there is a photo of Dobbin. We turned down a photo opportunity with Dobbin, thinking he might charge another 1000 rupees for the privilege.



One response to “The kind of a girl – Mumbai

  1. karenandchristopher

    I’m glad to see you are exploring both ends of the tourism spectrum! The Capetown slums were also amazing, and a huge amount of pride existed amongst the residents there – very impressive. An enterprising local had even established a B & B over there, but I gather that was not an option for the intrepid Indian Interluders. Thanks for your postings – they are a great read. Happy travels. Cheers Chris and Karen

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