Rediscovering Dharavi Stories From Asia's Largest Slum

Rediscovering Dharavi Stories From Asia's Largest Slum Spread over 175 hectares and swarming with one million people Dharavi is often called 'Asia's largest slum' But Dharavi is much than cold a statistic What makes it special are the extraordinary people who live there many of whom have defied fate and an unhelpful State to prosper through a mix of backbreaking work some luck and a great deal of ingenuity It is these men and women whom journalist Kalpana Sharma brings to life through a series of spellbinding stories While recounting their tales she also traces the history of Dharavi from the days when it was one of the six great koliwadas or fishing villages to the present times when it along with other slums is home to almost half of Mumbai

7 thoughts on “Rediscovering Dharavi Stories From Asia's Largest Slum

  1. Manoj Manoj says:

    There aren't many well researched works of non fiction by Indian authors Such books are expensive to produce and publishers claim the market has not grown large enough to warrant the high cost This makes Kalpana Sharma's book published in 2000 by Penguin India all the remarkable because it is a wonderful piece of writing and journalism even when held to the very highest standards It is clearly a labour of loveThe author a senior journalist has managed to produce a well researched and readable account of Dharavi She has managed to avoid many of the trappings in a work of this nature such as romanticizing the experience of living amidst poverty or at the other extreme to paint a picture of wretchedness The book is interspersed with several anecdotes about the history of Bombay the birth of settlements in Dharavi and about the lives of people in Dharavi The author has done a good job in organizing these anecdotes so that they come together to illustrate her larger points Some very insightful observations stayed with me for example one where she observed that in India institutional memory is often inadeuate leading to reinventing the wheel every time there is a change at the topThis book works at many different levels There is the psychological level where the search of many individuals for an identity is described anecdotally especially how chance had a big role to play in the profession they eventually undertook and by which they would come to define themselves Then there is the sociological level which reveals the different layers of society in Dharavi on the lines of caste profession language religion and how this plays a big role in what people ended up doing and how they fare economically as well as on other social indicators She makes a compelling case that Dharavi is a microcosm for all of IndiaThere is the economic level which opened my eyes to the many ways in which in our everyday lives we are interacting with Dharavi without realizing it There was some fascinating description of the way geography and architecture interacts with economics This was accompanied by analysis of limitations to the Dharavi production models and the need for the input of greater technology and skilled production to improve profitability and retain competitivenessFinally there is the political level which describes how the political system has interacted with the phenomenon of Dharavi and urban suatting generally It was humbling and fascinating to read of the limited successes of the well intentioned slum redevelopment programs since the mid 1980s not because of corruption or even incompetence but just because of the complexity and multi faceted nature of the challengesThe thing I appreciated most about this book is that the author strives very hard for a dispassionate fair and truthful voice She does not get carried away by sentimentalism nor is she insensitive to the larger socioeconopolitical factors behind the manifest issues Most people in the world live in cities and most urban dwellers now live in India and China and most Indians in cities live in slums Read this book to get some idea of how a large fraction of the world lives

  2. Piyush Kaviraj Piyush Kaviraj says:

    Dharavi Asia's largest slum is changing rapidly in form as well as content With MNCs and Builder lobbies needing space to develop the concrete jungle in Mumbai Dharavi automatically becomes a hot spot Kalpana Sharma has done a superb work a decade and half ago to bring forth tales and facts from Dharavi providing a glimpse into the poverty wants and accomplishments of the residents Piyush Kaviraj

  3. Janani Sridharan Janani Sridharan says:

    My first Dharavi book a place that despite being raised in Mumbai I know less about though I could relate to it in some sense One would have to be incredibly blind to have grown up in Mumbai not knowing what the working class life there is like or who the people who make it are This book is about the many many unsung lives of Dharavi

  4. Janet Janet says:

    This book has very vital information and though I consider myself a person who wouldn't stereotype the poor some of my misconceptions about slums were revealed to me The main thing is that people go where there is work and if there is no housing people can afford they will live as near to their work as possible Also a huge majority of slum dwellers have jobs and want to improve their dwellings and will be encouraged to do so if they feel like they can stay there Dharavi itself is incredible because of how many people from other places all over India live there and often create a micro community of their fellows from the same place but also because of all the varied industries in the area This was really excellent background reading for novels set in India especially Mumbai that focus on slum dwellers or the working poor A Fine Balance is an excellent example of this Sharma also shows how Mumbai's government has changed tactics for dealing with slums First it was clearing or demolition and then went to improvement and now is heading towards redevelopment which might actually cause the residents to have to find new homes if it goes toward gentrification or strictly residential zoning There have been cases of demolition recently as well This reminded me of another book I read comparing male female relationships in the slums of Colombo and Bangkok which was excellent but I can't remember the title There is a new book that recently came out about another slum of Mumbai which is near the airport but I only heard an interview with the author If you are interested that might be a good book to read because I don't know if this book is available in the USA I got it from a friend who went to India and bought it there In fact it was a pirated copy that could have been made by someone who lives in a slum of MumbaiIf you ever read this you could probably skip or skim the first chapter because it sort of a repeat of the introduction which was better Overall it could have been written with better cohesion and flow

  5. Saifuddin Shaik Saifuddin Shaik says:

    Stop Look and Listen Please don't go away The book slowly grows on you with each story you get closer to the people of the slum the stories of their life The stories of people from worker to owner they are not less than someone we look at as a role model an entrepreneur or an self made actor or a singer Dharavi is a classic example of how slums can be complex yet the very heart of the slum is the livelihood of people When you begin to understand this everything falls into perspective Recommend Everyone from India a must for Bambai folk

  6. Alexandra Alexandra says:

    Having spent time in this particular slum this account of personal stories from within it held special meaning to me It is a good book if you want to learn about humanizing poverty especially within developing countries It helps the reader to realize that this place is represented incorrectly by calling it a slum; it is a thriving city with sustainable industries

  7. Trupti Malviya Trupti Malviya says:

    So far goodbut it gets repeatative after a point

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