Dharavi, Mumbai’s pride or shame?

Dharavai, situated bang in the middle of Mumbai, is often called “Asia’s largest slum”. Many have often wondered whether that label is used with pride or shame. If one walks into Dharavi, and spend a day or two just wandering about, the best answer might surprisingly be “both”. It shames you that India that so many citizens living in the appalling conditions one finds there. But at the same time, there is such a lot going on, such a lot of drive, industry, vibrancy, enterprise. So much spirit, in such squalid conditions, all that cannot but lift you.
For Dharavai also has a large number of thriving small-scale industries that produce embroidered garments, export quality leather goods, pottery and plastic. Most of these products are made in tiny manufacturing units spread across the slum and are sold in domestic as well as international markets, totally valed at a whopping $ 650m a year. This is a place where every free square meter is an opportunity to start a business, where the children of destitute migrants from dusty Bihar backwaters study software.

In more ways than one, it forces you to see what India could be, and what’s holding it back.

Robert Appleby, an English photographer based in Italy, spent weeks tramping through Dharavi. The result is what he calls City of Crows. His sensitive, almost tangible images in that collection capture a certain essence of our urban condition
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Independent producer Julian Crandall Hollick, through his visit to a recycling center, a goldsmith and a busy pottery, finds that along the twisted lanes and back alleys of Dharavi, there is an industrious streak amid grinding poverty. Image Gallery: Dharavi, a Study in Contrasts


Also, checkout BBC’s take on Dharavi here.

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