Seven new ambassadors touched down in Mumbai on March 8. They have a day to recover from jet lag while seeing sights in Mumbai, home to 20 million. They are touring Gandhi’s House Museum and then Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, home to 600,000 to one million people. Dharavi is the slum featured in the movie Slum Dog Millionaire. While “slum tour” seems voyeuristic and a bit exploitative, some of the companies funnel 80% of their income back into the slum in the form of community centers, tutoring centers with computers, and sports teams for the children. Tourists are not allowed to take photos in order to respect the citizens, however, you can request photos from the company, as I did. Here are some fascinating photos of Dharavi.
We were particularly impressed by the many industries within the slum, particularly in the area of recycling and textiles. Although the conditions in the dark, narrow lanes– children literally playing with fire near a garbage dump– were shocking, the overall feeling was one of admiration for the citizens’ ingenuity and industriousness. The recycling operations were impressive. We went up on a roof where they were drying out the broken mosaic bits of washed plastic, sorted by color, for their recycling operation. On the roof, you could see that every ounce of space is used for storage or industry. One roof held a mountain of plastic chairs, where another roof held lines of laundry.
And even in the midst of miserable living conditions, we saw glimpses of hope and joy.
Seeing the conditions in Dharavi provides a stark contrast when next visiting The Miracle Foundation homes. Westerners can better appreciate the vital services provided for these orphans, how things we take for granted are not taken for granted in other parts of the world. Ambassador Amy is ready to meet the children. Here she is, practicing greeting the children of Bethel Orphanage in her clown nose. The children will be delighted.