The day starts with a visit at a traditional fish market. Unfortunately, after the terrorism attacks in 2008 it is forbidden to take photos. But this market is quite impressive. Crowdy place, huge amount of fish I have never seen before, women and men carrying huge baskets with fish on their heads, many young girls sitting just on the ground and cleaning fish and crabs for a very few rupees per hour. School education? That’s difficult.
A visit at the Ghandi museum is another must. Another site of Indian life and philosophy. I understand how Hindu religion and request for a peaceful fight fit together.
After a short visit to to the Afghan church, a Christian one a completely different world again: the water affairs of Mumbai – the open air laundries, called also the Dobi Ghats.
In these laundries men wash huge amount of clothes – many hours a day. A hard work, washing by hand. I learn how to hang up clothes without clips.
Then, back to the rich part of Mumbai – the famous and nice Marine Drive promenade. Ideal for runners and young and old couples fallen in love.
Men taking a bath in the ‘holy’ water of Banganka tank – this is a must go. A very particular place.
Watching the arrival of the Dabba-Wallahs at the train station
Dabba- Wallahs, that’s how the food carriers are called who bring homemade food from the suburbs and rural areas into the city. Most of the families live outside, up to two hours away. The men leave early, the trains in the rush hours are over-crowded. In the meantime, their wives start to prepare fresh hot food that the Dabba-Wallahs bring then to the men working in Mumbai city. Day by day. They collect it locality- wise and – by using the train after the first rush hours – they bring it to the city. Once the train arrives at the station they carry entire food collections – up to hundred kilos of food (!) – on their heads down to a street where they start to re-order the food containers according to the destination address. The food arrives warm at the husbands’ desk . It is a wonder: the delivery system fails only in very rare cases. After lunch has taken place the containers are carried home – in the same way.
After a short stop at the Thieves’ market, a kind of flee market, and a short lunch with tandoori gobi ( just some spicy cower-flowers) we are going to spend the afternoon in the Dharavi slum.
The Dharavi slum – what is a slum?
How it looks? It is difficult to describe, I have many things and pictures in my mind after this day . Probably I need still time to really understand well what I have seen. Probably I just got a small piece of it. What I can describe here is just a very spontaneous impression: a slum is much more on what I have had in mind, more than what is shown in TV. And it is not the place where the poorest live. The poorest here in Mumbai live just on the streets or nearby. Living in a slum means being part of an entire ecosystem. When you walk through Dharavi you will see many different areas and a clear difference of how people live there – depending on their culture, religion, gender, work.
Yes, there are huge problems, waste, children playing in dirty parts. Small rooms where business and life takes place. Hygiene issues. Many. Dark, muddy and smelling pathways, electricity cables and water pipes without any safety protection ( as we know it from Western countries) , but there are also schools and educational courses for learning English and computer programs, a market place, women who keep their small family rooms very clean and add cosy things, cultural events, even Yoga courses, public bathrooms are under construction, a school where young adults are doing an exam when we arrive. English. With a native speaker. English language is key for people who want to find a better job. And computer technology. It is a fantastic educational infrastructure offered by this NGO that offers these slum tours in a very caring and respectful way. They engage young tour guides who would never have a chance to find a similar work, they train them, give them self-confidence. The tour costs paid by the tourists are given back to the slum infrastructure : school, education, culture.
Did you know that in the slums there are real employers who have more than 5 employees – and they care: they work and live together. Just in summer when the Monsoon season arrives and the amount of work goes down many of them go back to their families in the rural areas and spend some weeks/ months there. Then they come back for another year. Back to the slums. It reminds me somehow of the emigrants in the 60s and early 70s coming to Germany. Mainly Italians, Spanish and Greek people, some Portuguese. They did the same: they worked and lived together in small flats, often four, five people in one room – for many months. Life and work together – 24 hrs a day. Once a year they went home to their families for coming back after a few weeks. Again and again. They did it to save money that they sent to their families….
I just can recommend this tour. It is a busy day, walking with these temperatures, getting so many insights and participating at a huge amount of conversation with local people.
So, coming back to the hotel in the late afternoon I need one hour of relax. And then ready to go: after all – a dinner at the famous Leopold cafe with a friend.
In a few words: a perfect day in Mumbai. Vibrant life, full of contrasts and colours!