These are the stories of the little people who make up the Big
Idea of Dharavi.
A slum of energy, enterprise and hope.
Where every hand is busy, every head held high.
Where people could be miserable but choose to be happy.
A choice each of us can make.
I have lived in Mumbai most of my life but never set foot inside Dharavi.
Not until 15 February 2011, when we made our first, tentative trip to explore the idea of this book.
Deepak strongly felt this book needed to be written, I was not so sure.
Who wants to read about slums? Only professors of sociology and NGO-types.
But maybe, that’s why this book had to be written.
We are ordinary middleclass citizens.
The kind who employ maids and drivers from slums.
We are ‘decent’ human beings.
The kind who think mainly about our own comforts and careers.
We didn’t go into Dharavi with an overactive conscience. We went there with a sense of adventure. To discover, what the hell this place is all about.
In the beginning, it was difficult. We could not see beyond the obvious — the garbage, the filth, the ‘sluminess’ of the slum.
One afternoon, straight from Dharavi, we went to have lunch at the Trident Hotel in BKC, just two kilometres away. The toilet cubicle was bigger than the house we’d just visited.
Pasta didn’t slide down our throats that afternoon. The unfairness of it all, suddenly came alive.
Over time, we grew familiar with people and places in Dharavi. We looked into the eyes of a civilisation, and saw beauty within the chaos.
This book is an attempt to share that expansive experience, through the limited medium of words and pictures. Writing it restored our faith in humanity. We can be happy, we can be hopeful, we can be enterprising — no matter where we are.
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