73 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 22 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
Life Arts   

Little Waste in Shantytown

By       (Page 1 of 4 pages)   No comments

There is more hope and industry than squalor in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum

By Mathew Maavak

Within 48 hours, I would be in a different world. I would be taxiing up the verdant Ukay Heights suburb off Kuala Lumpur to plonk on my bed.

With such a guarantee -- printed on a Malaysia Airlines e-ticket no less -- a man can thread where few natives dare venture in Mumbai. I was going to Dharavi, Asia's largest slum.

Think of a shantytown that may host up to 1 million inhabitants in one tiny square mile, and you will understand the anywhere-but-Dharavi hesitations I had encountered during my previous two trips to Mumbai.

"This is not the real India," I was frequently told...

I desperately needed an Indiana Jones, an adventurer, or anyone who can be piqued by the prospect of re-discovering Dharavi first-hand.

That timely quality was found in 25-year-old budding film director Geoffrey Mathews, who stayed just across the street. He had only peripheral encounters with Dharavi until that morning, despite it being a 50-minute bus or train ride away from our abodes in Belapur, Navi Mumbai.

The gateway to Dharavi begins at a suburb called Sion, and that was where we alighted for our first-hand encounter.

I remarked to Geoffrey that it meant "Zion" in French, and he corrected me that it was a corruption of Sheev in the native Marathi. Did the famed Baghdadi Sassoons or some colonial-era bureaucrat decide on the ingenious English diptych? I would never know.

In any case, it was a fitting tribute to India's unparalleled hospitality, spanning 2,500 years for exiled Jews, and 2,000 years for Christians.

However, we were not walking up the mystical Mt Zion that day, not to the City of God where no pain hunger, tears and death existed.

We were going to a place so mortal that unrelenting misery and squalor was the residential promise. I was reminded of the reams written on Kolkata's Anand Nagar, which, translates to the "City of Joy" in English and as a tutorial on the word "oxymoron."

From Sion, an ancient taxi dropped us off at the requested location that was not unusual in its scale of decrepitude. Run-down neighborhoods in India take a turn for the worse before they are reincarnated as an avatar of redevelopment.

"So, where are the slums? Where is Dharavi?"

We were, in fact, already in the midst of it when that the question was posed. Periodic signboard checks served as a confirmation.

However, this was not the slum we expected. Instead of rows upon rows of makeshift plastic hovels straddling construction sites in India, this place was a labyrinth of grocery shops, tailors, pharmacies, private medical practices, metal works, leather tanneries and so on.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Mathew Maavak Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Mathew Maavak is a journalist based in Malaysia. Contact him at mathew@maavak.net
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Laying Palin's Wardrobe Bare

An explosively penetrated quagmire

There is indeed a Christmas Story

A Roulette of Terror, Nukes and Jihad

Games, Cock-Fights and Fandangos in the Persian Gulf

A World of Abbreviated Criterions

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend