Poor Little Rich Slum (Dharavi) by Rashmi Bansal – Book Review

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?

  • You can buy ‘Poor Little Rich Slum’ by Rashmi Bansal from Flipkart or Amazon.in in India. [Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. I may get a small commission if you click on the links and buy the product. Your price will not change.]

Destination Infinity

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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30 Replies to “Poor Little Rich Slum (Dharavi) by Rashmi Bansal – Book Review”

    1. Thanks, David. It’s an eternal debate – Whether to stay on or move to seemingly greener pastures. I guess it depends on the circumstances, as well.

      Destination Infinity

  1. Good to be back here and wonderful to see a book review. Your blog is where I stepped in first, after all this while, DI. Good reading as always.

    Feels great to be back!



    1. A comment from you after a long time. I was glad to read your latest post as well… A long one, for a change? 🙂

      Destination Infinity

  2. Hi Rajesh,
    thank you for the interesting review. This is a way of life that most people don’t really understand, it is good to see there are people that explain it in such a captivating way.

    1. Yes. People who live in high-rises next door to Dharavi too, may not understand or worse, may not be bothered about their way of life. It’s indeed good to have someone explain it to us in an engaging way.

      Destination Infinity

    1. I am yet to read the other books. They are highlighted prominently in a few bookshops I visit. I would be reading them soon.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Wow. This is the first time I am getting a comment from the author for a book review. Thank you so much 🙂 If I were in Mumbai, I would have definitely come to Crossword. But do let me know if you plan any event in Chennai.

      Destination Infinity

  3. Sounds like a very interesting book. I like reading about enterprising people with entrepreneurial spirit. Honestly, I did not know of Dharavi and so this came as a very novel issue to me. Nice review DI 🙂

    You summed it up beautifully !

    I wish blogadda let us participate from where we are, as well 🙁

    1. You did not know of Dharavi? You did not see Slumdog Millionaire? The slum featured there was Dharavi (of the past, but still). Yes, for people outside India who have Kindle/Andriod tablets, they could send the e-book version. That should be easier, no?

      Destination Infinity

  4. I am yet to read this book. Thought it won’t be that good. But after ur recommendation I think I can give a shot. Anyway if you want her first 2 books to read I can give. But they are not in the best of the conditions though 🙂

    1. OK. You give me that and I’ll give you this book. Oh, how much I love the Internet 😀

      Destination Infinity

  5. Nice review DI. The book seems like genuinely covering the life of people who live in Dharavi…Must be a book that I will definitely like…I so miss these free book review stuff from Blog adda 🙁

    1. That’s why I read more non-fiction these days. There is some level of reality and genuinity in them… But there are more fiction books available for review, than non-fiction!

      Destination Infinity

    1. I don’t think they send it abroad right now. Maybe in future they might send the e-book versions…

      Destination Infinity

    1. You’re more into fiction, I guess? I too was crazy about story books when I was younger, but these days I feel that I have out-grown them. Of course, I do catch up with one or two stories occasionally, but I prefer non-fiction.

      Destination Infinity

    1. So, we have someone who has looked at Dharavi from an apartment at Sion. I’d like to see it from there too…

      Destination Infinity

    1. I read and review only non-fiction books. If good non-fiction books are available through blogadda, then why not? A welcome break on a weekend 🙂

      Destination Infinity

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