Slumming it in Mumbai

We went on a tour of a slum in Mumbai, India. In India, a slum is where people build their home on government land without permission. The people living in slums often don’t have much money. In Mumbai there are people who are very rich and people who are very poor.

Mumbai's Most Expensive House

Mumbai’s Most Expensive House

For instance, Mumbai has the most expensive house in the world named “Antilia”. It has 27 floors with nine elevators. It is 40 storeys tall and worth over a billion dollars. It has “six underground levels of parking, three helicopter pads, a ‘health’ level, and reportedly requires about 600 staff to run it”. It even has a room where it snows all year round. Just a few blocks away you’ll find people living on the streets earning less than $2 a day. I really don’t like when they do stuff like that. It’s amazing what people just turn their backs to.

A car picked us up from our hotel. We didn’t go straight to the slums. We started at the massive outdoor laundry mat, called the Dhobi Ghats. The laundry mat is not your typical place to do laundry. In this one you don’t have washing and drying machines. You will find individual stalls with a stone, walls and water in the bottom about knee deep.

You can rent a stall for an hour at a time. When its your turn, you will bring all your clothes and put them next to the stall. You will get in the water and take one piece at a time. For each piece of clothing you whip it onto the rock while wet, squeeze it and rinse it. They keep repeating the process until clean. When you want to dry the laundry you simply hang it up on a clothes line in the sun. Many of the Mumbai hotels and restaurants have the laundry washed here.

Dhobi Ghats

Dhobi Ghats

Next we headed for the Dharavi slum (Sorry… no picture were allowed… check this link for “approved” photos). They call the Dharavi slum a “five star” slum. They call it this because unlike other slums you can find everything there. You can find housing, jobs and food.

When we got to the slum we started our tour in the toxic work area. Some of the jobs they had were: melting aluminium, melting plastic, recycling aerosol cans and other smelly toxic jobs. In this area the main focus was recycling. They recycle everything from kid toys to perfume cans. None of the workers wear any safety protection. Not even when they’re in a small hot toxic room melting aluminum.

They are all given safety equipment but they just sell it. They sell it because they need the money. They don’t have enough education to know just how bad it is for them. The life expectancy rate in the toxic area of the slums is 60. Many of the workers die from lung cancer.

Next we then headed for the non-toxic work area. In this area they have leather-making, pottery and other crafts. The leather-making smelled bad even though it was not toxic. It smelled like it was. I don’t think I could work there.

They had a big press that made the skins look like different skins such as crocodile and snake skin. They also dye the leather. When they finished with the leather it was very different from what it was when they started.

After the non-toxic area, we headed for the living area where all the houses are. These houses don’t have toilets. Outside there is a public toilet that everyone in their area shares. There are many people in the slums, so the toilets always have lines. They aren’t very clean and they are extremely smelly. Some time people just go to the toilet outside on the ground.

People in the slums have very small houses. Many of them consisting of only one room. The fridge, TV, kitchen and sleeping area are all there in one tiny room. We visited one. It wasn’t much bigger than our bathroom at home.

Most people in the slum are proud of their homes and don’t like how the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” made it look. The movie only focused on the bad side of the slums. The movie focused on the poverty, the filth and the crime. The people of the slum prefer to see the resourcefulness and successful business that come out of the slum.

For the “Slumdog Millionaire” movie, they actually built a fake slum for the movie just at the edge of the slum.

In the Dharavi slum there are a couple richer families too. We saw some security cameras that were posted around a parking space that had a gold expensive car in it. They were living for cheap lining their pockets with gold. I don’t like people like that. Living around people in poverty, not caring about them and rubbing it in their faces. It just isn’t nice.

I defiantly learnt a lot in the slum tour and enjoyed it too. I still can’t believe rich people are living in the same neighbourhood as so many poor people and just don’t care. I really hope that one day everyone will be treated equally and that money doesn’t decide whether or not you’re frowned upon.

We took a tour called Reality Tours. They were really friendly, nice and told us lots of important information. If you’re going to Mumbai I would recommend taking a tour with them.

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