Growing up and staying trapped in a large bubble of prosperity, all we care for these days are the petty things in life. No wonder state of being presently is so pathetic. We are like dogs chasing tails. The only difference being the tail is money. The tail is need. The tail is hunger. The thin boundary between need and greed has been exploited so many times, it is a wonder how anyone still remembers where the line was. Humans want more and more out of everything they get.
It is a very stark contrast they find themselves in, in Dharavi. Having lived in Dharavi for a period of two months, its setting was something I could immediately identify with. But what I expected this little book to be, it turned out quite a lot more than that! ‘Poor Little Rich Slum’ is an oddity of a book in the sense that even though it portrays the stinking slums of Dharavi in a positive light, it has much more to say than just the occasional building opportunities factor of the slum area. It helps that the book is divided into small chapters that depict the various facets of life there. Shelter, education, livelihood, corruption, and development- everything has been seen to in the book. From chapters like ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (that explores the different projects and NGOs operating from within the slum) to ‘Waste Warriors’ (about rag pickers and their problems in working in one of the filthiest places of the city, if not country), the fragile relationship between prosperity and poverty is explored with utmost ease.
This mainly has to do with the fact that the two adventurers faced no difficulty in their exploration of Dharavi, seeing that the residents hardly ever felt intruded upon. After all, “in Dharavi, everyone is too busy doing their own thing.”
Rashmi Bansal is the bestselling author of ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’, ‘Connect the Dots’ and ‘I Have a Dream’. While her books have sold over half a million copies, it is the down –
to-earth approach she uses in them that makes her a highly appreciate able writer of the present times.
Deepak Gandhi, on the other hand, is a handsome management consultant and a teacher. Apart from having an avid interest in the social sector, he has a professional career spanning three decades.
Ace photographer Dee Gandhi has proved with his beautiful stills that less is indeed more. A freelance photographer who practices no price tag photography, his photographs are a joy to behold. Most of them are minimalistic in nature and therein lies their beauty.
Halfway through the book, I was pleasantly greeted with the following:
“A place where doors are always open.
People take care of each other, care for each other.
As aspirations rise, so must the slum reach for the skies.
But let concrete not harden the hearts of its dwellers.
May Dharavi be ever-willing to welcome weary new country cousins.
Because it is their energy which powers its soul.”
An extraordinary bit of poetry that the ordinary man manages to weave makes me think. The people struggling here in the slums live successfully for the most part- more importantly, happily- because they have no other choice. They dare not be evicted, for the land is like their precious mother. And the fear of the outside world- us, the legal citizens of this country – keeps them at bay from disturbing us and our notions of them. It is only through Mrs. Bansal and Mr. Gandhi’s excellent work that we are being compelled not to cast a blind eye to the continent that is Dharavi. While the slum cannot be fixed with a few stitches, the tales of the thousands living in it are nothing short of inspiring. And sometimes, inspiration is all is needed. Here, human beings continue to stitch, but more bravely and now, it is the fabric of their lives they are working upon!
Right now, the citizens of Dharavi are content with their lives. They may be suffering with regard to quality of life in our opinion, but we don’t really matter to them ever since they’ve learned to carry on with their day-to-day activities, even with outside interference. So the frightening question Bansal and Gandhi put to us here is: If, like Oliver Twist, the people of Dharavi decided to unite and ask for more – would we be able to stand up to their might?
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: