We decided the best way to see the city was on an organised tour so yesterday was full on visiting important places in Mumbai – Gateway of India (again), Hanging garden, Mahatma Gandhi’s house, office and campaign centre in Mumbai, Temples, Courts, University, Victoria Railway station and the Oval cricket ground. The journey along Marine Drive took us past some amazing Art Deco buildings, up to the Hanging Gardens and the Banganga tank in the oldest part of the city.
We also went to the Dhobi Ghat where a group of families still do a good deal of the laundry for the city. To our eyes the place seemed quite dirty with mud and rubbish lying around everywhere, and it’s amazing that they manage to produce cleaned, dried and pressed clothes, hotel bedding and even hospital linens. They also apparently get all of the hundreds of thousands of items back to the right person every time!
The second day provided us with an introduction to the public railway system in Mumbai (very useful experience for later in the trip). Our guide, Mish got tickets for us and we got on the local train up to the Dhavari slum. We felt a little apprehensive about visiting this area but overall it was a positive experience. Mish said he thought we would be shocked before we went in and to a degree, he was right. In some places the passageways between the buildings were only one person wide and so dark you couldn’t see your feet. In places you had to pick your way across pipes, broken stone, tiles, discarded rubbish, oozing mud and water. However, in the slum, everyone seems busy and there’s a huge amount going on. In Mumbai 70% of the rubbish is collected and much of it ends up in the slum for sorting and recycling. Many of the plastic recyclers are migrant workers from the countryside. They work so hard and earn only around 200 rupees (GBP 2) a week, most of which many of them send home. They sleep on the workshop floor at night and seem to have quite a hard life! It’s also a big area for leather processing. They used to send the processed leather out of the slum, but a few entrepreneurs are now making finished products such as purses and handbags with the “Dharavi” name proudly embossed on them. The finished bags were of stunning soft leather in beautiful colours for a fantastic price, and I would have loved to buy one or six!
We took some pictures of the potters work, and one of a huge, smoky kiln in which they were firing their clay pots. Some of the animals in that area go blind because of the continual thick black smoke from the kilns which was very sad. Outside of the work areas there are open, colourful streets, schools and hospitals still within the slum area – it’s a small city within the city where life is both and positive and difficult.