I mostly read non-fiction books these days. So, when this book, ‘Poor Little Rich Slum’ by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi (photographer) came up for review in BlogAdda, I immediately applied for it. The sweet team at BlogAdda even sent me the book
I wanted to read the other books written by this author too, but due to sheer laziness and timelessness (to read), I have been postponing the purchase. I was concerned if I’ll be able to read this book in seven days (as required by Blog Adda) but I finished it within a day! It has 184 pages, but the book is small and has a lot of pictures which makes it easy to read. Non fiction books can take a long time to read, you know.
“You and I maybe born in Mumbai, but where we live is merely a transit point. Do we really think twice before moving to a bigger apartment, a different city or even a different country?
If you are born in Dharavi, it’s different. The web of human relationships envelops you, supports you, nourishes you. ‘Hum log cement ke ghar mein nahin, insaaniyat ke ghar mein rehte hain’ proclaimed one gentleman we met”
In a way, the above quote sums up the book. We can guess that Dharavi has everything that we might expect to see in a slum (People even organize slum tours to look around Dharavi!). After all, it’s one of the largest slums of the world.
“Tauseef leads us through the alleyways where people live, wall to wall, roof to roof. Ten by ten feet rooms occupied by eight-member families, with barely enough space to stretch their legs. Stove in one corner. TV in another”
What makes the largest slum on earth, tick? What makes people continue to stay there? Is Dharavi a world-wide phenomenon due to its size? Or due to it’s portrayal in Slumdog Millionaire? The author notes that there is a more powerful factor in Dharavi that everyone seems to miss out.
“There is a more subtle form of revolution (in Dharavi). You won’t see flags, or guns, or collective chanting. Because this is a silent revolution, an individual revolution where each man is striving to better his life.
This is the revolution you see in Dharavi. A revolution of energy and enterprise.
Dharavi is a cauldron bubbling with enterprise, with a never-say-die attitude. With spirit and spunk”
If a person comes to Mumbai in search of work (without much money in hand), where can he/she live? The rentals/cost of living in a big city like Mumbai can be punishing to unskilled laborers migrating from rural areas. But the womb called Dharavi welcomes them. Nourishes them. Gives them a home till they grow. Gives them more work than they asked for. Gives them a life.
A lot of people who made Dharavi their home are interviewed in this book. There are people who work here and send money back to their homes in their villages. There are people in Dharavi who make dancing shoes and supply to many Bollywood stars. There are people like Mustaqeem Bhai whose company has an annual turnover of 12 crores and employs more than four hundred people. All from in and around Dharavi.
This book has done a very good job showcasing the enterprises and enterprising people of Dharavi. The stories are ultra-short biographies, but feel complete. It also has a big section on the social enterprises that want to create a change by being there and working directly with people.
While some of them are slightly commercial enterprises (like a water purification company and a doctor who uses acupuncture to treat patients), others are NGO’s and social organizations (like SNEHA and Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work) that strive to make the life of slum-dwellers better by creating awareness, providing guidance through counseling, activism and other means. There is also a section on what kind of redevelopment might be more suitable for Dharavi.
“A life lived for oneself is the biggest waste of all”
Altogether, this is an excellent book that should be read by everyone, and especially by people who feel that they have got a raw deal in life. Because they need to know about others who are enthusiastic, enterprising and have a positive outlook towards life in spite of getting to eat the bitterest of pills. Or is it because of it?