Slumdog Millionaire - DHARAVI and the SLUMS of MUMBAI

Britain’s influence grew in the cluster-island area now known as Mumbai. The sport of cricket (which can trace its first direct reference to sixteenth-century southern England) became popular, for example, during India’s British domination.  Today Indians, young and old alike, are passionate cricket lovers.


The real growth of Bombay, as a major metropolitan area, coincided with a major problem facing Britain.  As people in India began to agitate for freedom, British forces needed a safer place from which to run their affairs on the subcontinent. 

Forced to leave Delhi, they began to develop Bombay.  Before long, the islands were essentially joined and trains connected the area to other parts of India.

As the seven islands of Bombay were transformed into one major area, during the nineteenth century, another phenomenon was about to unfold.  People fleeing natural disasters, political oppression and crushing poverty began to migrate toward the growing Bombay metropolis where  they created a small village in nearby marshlands. 

The British gave artisans and small traders occupancy rights, but no one could have predicted what would eventually happen. 

A city-within-a-city, known today as Dharavi, grew out of those modest marshland origins as more and more people came to the area.  Unable to afford living in Bombay/Mumbai itself, immigrants gravitated toward Dharavi where they began to eke-out a living. 

The developing “shanty town,” located between Bombay/Mumbai’s central and western rail lines, held a sense of hopefulness for poor people and dislocated families.  Without government support, residents have created a place to live and work.  Its industries include recycling, pottery and textiles.

Although outsiders refer to Dharavi as a  “slum,” Bhau Korde (a social worker who lives there) has observed:

Dharavi is an economic success story that the world must pay attention to during these times of global depression.

Living in Dharavi isn’t easy: 

  • Women often make the trek for water ten, or more, times a day. 
  • Some residents (it is estimated that about a million people live there) get power to their homes by illegally tapping into the city’s electrical grid. 
  • During monsoons, drains which are infested with mosquitos (and serve as bathroom facilities for some families), overflow.  A messy situation can quickly become a major cesspool.

Despite its obvious problems, however, the people of Dharavi produce goods and services collectively valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  And ... they do not like it when their living area is called “the biggest slum in Asia.”

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