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2 Sides of Mumbai

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Day 83 of 164 Days Around the World Cruise



As we sit here to write this blog we are pulled like the rope in a tug of war between our world reality and the reality of the people of Mumbai who inhabit the slums. Every morning of our World Cruise we wake up and feel so thankful that we are able to be doing what we are doing, traveling around the world, learning from and meeting the most amazing people. Today the reality of our privilege was thrown directly in our faces and we are still processing our feelings about the experience.


Today we had a tour of the Dhavari slum which houses about a million people in aproximatly one square mile. Our driver Mukesh and our Guide Raj were amazing. They were able to go into great detail about the history of the slum, the lives of the people who live in the slum, and thier own personal experiences. We can't thank them enough for the day.


Todays video unfortunately will only show a small slice of what we saw. In the areas where the people live we were asked out of respect to not take pictures or videos. We totally understand thier feelings and would not want to disrespect anyone in any way.


Dhavari is like a city within a city. What makes a slum is that the people have built unauthorized structures on government land. There are thousands of slums in Mumbai but Dhavari is the largest. There is a thriving economy of manufacturing, recycling, food sales and preparation, schools, banking, medical facilities including hospitals, and every service that any city requires. The density is astounding. They have electricity 24 hours a day and water 3 hours per day. Many people have TVs with cable and internet service wirelessly.


Raj took us on walking tour through the slum. He was very informative, answered every question honestly, and he entertained us with a witty sense of humor. We toured recycling, soap making, clay pot manufacturing, fabric production, leather making, barber shops, food stalls, the vegetable market place, schools and even stopped at an ATM to get some local cash. We will show you some of those things.


The living areas are very dense with 1 million people living within a one square mile. The buildings are sometimes 3 stories high with walkways that are just a couple of feet wide. There is barely enough room for two people to pass. The walkways are uneven with exposed water lines and a spiderweb of wires above wind their way to each home. In some areas businesses are below with living areas above for the business owners. Step ladder stairs give access to the upper floors. A typical home might be a single room 8 to 10 feet square which serves as the kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom. As the family grows and the children marry they sometimes add areas above for the next generation to have some privacy. There are large often broken concrete pavers that cover the sewer below. During monsoons the sewers may flood into the homes. There is a constant but not overwhelming flow of people through these pathways. The paths wind around getting even more narrow and go off in every direction. Dogs, cats and goats are seen as you traverse the corridors. You must watch your feet and your head as there are many opportunities to get injured.


We had the good fortune of being invited to our driver Mukesh's home in Dahvari. He and his wife share the home with is mother and father. The down stairs is maybe 8 feet sq and serves as their kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom. Mukesh lived in that space with his parents until he got married and then they added on a room above of about the same size so they could have some privacy. His wife is expecting a child in 3 months and they will remain in the same space. The family was so hospitable. They invited us in and prepared delicious Chai and cookies for us. The neighbors came by to say hi and thier kids also came in to hang with the foreigners. We have never felt more welcome at someone's home. Later in the day after we left the slum Mukesh got a call from his wife who told him his father was so excited that he was glowing the whole day after we left. We found out it was the first time, since we visited on a Sunday, that he has been home when a foreigner has come to visit.


Yes it was very dirty in the slum. The odors were not pleasant. The sewers flow into a river that flows directly to the sea. It was hot and chaotic in some areas, but the people seem to be very happy. Almost everyone smiled and acknowledge us. We came across a large group of Christian people having a parade and singing for Palm Sunday. Almost all the children are getting a free public or private eduction. Mukesh's baby will be delivered at a hospital. Dahvari is a thriving city within a city that is a fascinating place to visit.


So then we had a short city tour and were taken to the Taj Mahal Palace hotel where we had booked a room for the night to just relax off the ship and get some fast internet to upload and sync our iPads and video. We invited Raj and Mukesh to have lunch with us at the hotel. They have been doing tours for 8 years and often take people to the Taj to see the historic building and the Gateway of India across the street, but they had never been inside the hotel. They asked if we would mind showing them our room which we gladly did. We had booked the Seagull Suite with an amazing view of the sea and Gateway. They were so excited they told us it was a dream come true to be able to see the inside of the hotel and to dine there, We had a wonderful lunch with them and off they went to the most important thing in Mumbai, which is Cricket.


We returned to our emense suite after lunch and immediately the emotions began to come. We are overwhelmed by how completely different our life is from our 2 new friends lives. How is it they we can be so privileged to be traveling around the world on a luxurious ship and 5 Star hotels, where our bathroom in our hotel suite is bigger than thier entire home for 4 people. How can we eat what we want to , when we want to, how much we eat and leave on our plate, and they finish every bite on thier plate even when they are full because they don't want to waste anything. How can they be so happy while often we are stressed. How can they be more hospitable than us. They have rich and full lives and so do we but we cant even grasp how we were so fortunate to be born in a certain place, at a certain time in history, to a certain set of amazing parents, and have the opportunities that we had in our life to get to the point that we can go on a World Cruise. It is overwhelming and we are not sure how to process it all.


We hope today's video can provide a small glimpse into what we experienced today including the Dahvari Slum and Taj Mahal Palace Luxary suite, and our two new friends Raj and Mukesh.


Dharavi


Dharavi, located in the heart of Mumbai, is one of the largest slums in Asia, with a population of approximately one million people. The slum has long been a source of fascination and intrigue for visitors to Mumbai, as it is a stark contrast to the glamorous high-rise buildings and bustling streets of the city.


Despite its reputation as a poverty-stricken area, Dharavi is a vibrant and bustling community, with a rich cultural heritage and a thriving economy. The slum is home to a wide range of small businesses and industries, including leather goods, textiles, pottery, and recycling.


One of the most remarkable things about Dharavi is the resilience and creativity of its residents. Despite facing significant challenges, such as overcrowding and poor living conditions, many people in the slum have found ways to make a living and provide for their families. In fact, Dharavi is often referred to as the 'beating heart' of Mumbai's informal economy, generating an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue.


Visiting Dharavi can be a truly eye-opening experience, providing visitors with a glimpse into a unique and complex community that is often misunderstood. While poverty and hardship are undoubtedly present in the slum, there is also a sense of warmth, hospitality, and community that is hard to find elsewhere. Many visitors leave Dharavi with a newfound respect and admiration for the resilience and ingenuity of its residents.


Overall, Dharavi is a fascinating and complex place, with a rich history and culture that is worth exploring. While it may not be for everyone, a visit to Dharavi can be a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.


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