First, I need to apologize for using the pejorative of slum dogs for these dear people. That was the title of the Time article and I was not thinking. A few years ago when Slum Dog Millionaire was released, many Indian people protested the name, and I don’t think that a one of us would want to be called “dogs!”
I hope readers had time to look at the video on Dharavi which I posted yesterday as this is the sequel. There was a huge architectural firm that has a connection to my husband’s architecture school, and we went to visit. I had spent days and weeks with the students and really loved them. I knew they were bright or they would not be at Rensselaer. Sitting around the conference table with the Indian architects, the students asked very thoughtful questions, especially about the slum problem in India. Wherever we went, the poverty slapped us in the face! I was especially touched both by the sensitive questions and care for the people who live in the slums and the replies, again of sensitivity and concern for the people given by the practicing architects.
Here are some facts of Dharavi Slum in Mumbai. There are 600,000 people who live in 500 acres. The living spaces is approximately 100 square feet with up to a dozen people sharing the area. Most of the “work” done there involves recycling. They collect rubber from the soles of shoes, reconditioned metal drums, shredded plastic from soda bottles, cloth, stip computers, sorted and bundled paper, fixed machinery, flattened cardboard, and clean and crushed glass. The people get paid only pennies a pound for their work, hardly enough to live on . But businesses in Dharavi produce million of dollars in exports yearly. This complicates the development plans available. There is a huge superhighway being built to direct traffic out of the streets of Dharavi.
The architects told us that there are many people who would like to provide new housing for the people who currently live in Dharavi, but the slum dwellers are terrified for being forced to move away from their jobs, as they have no ability to pay for transportation. They also fear being separated from their families and extended families. Do people have a right to displace these people to force them into a better life? If new housing is built will former residents be able to afford to live there? In Katherine Boo’s book written after five years of research in the slums of Mumbai, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, she found the same thing . It certainly seems strange to me to want to live there, but there is no welfare, public assistance, or food stamps in India, as far as I know. These dear souls have had to provide for themselves and their families.
The dream of Indian developers is to convert Mumbai ,India’s business and film center, into a world class financial center by 2015. I just hope it is done with gentleness and insight for the people who live in Dharavi and their lives are not disrupted and turned into more of a nightmare.
Happy New Year to all my friend around the world!
from nippo.worpress.com and Time Photos- Rebuilding Mumbai