Last year during Onam vacation, I had gone to Mumbai where my father works. I had never visited Mumbai before, though I had always wanted to see the city that is hailed as the economic capital of India. When we landed in Chatrapati Sivaji airport in Mumbai, it was already night. It took almost one hour to reach Malad, where my dad's apartment is situated. We did not visit many places in Mumbai mainly due to the rain. It rained cats and dogs most of the days.
But, I did get to visit Dharavi which has the dubious distinction of being Asia's largest slum. It is located near Andheri. An estimated 600,000 people live here, wedged within less than one square mile. Some alleys in Dharavi are so narrow that they are only passable by walking sideways. Small shacks made of bits of tarpaulin, tin and cardboard, house families of 12 or more people. Half-naked children and stray dogs run about, adding to the general cacophony. Most of the places in Dharavi stink, due to the poor drainage facilities, and the tanneries located nearby. Dharavi also has a large number of bakeries and sweet manufacturing centres.
If you travel just two miles from Dharavi, the surroundings undergo a startling change. The high buildings and sprawling malls are in sharp contrast to the poverty and suffering in Dharavi. Thus, Mumbai is a city of stark contrasts and differences. The city is dotted with tall, but old moss covered buildings. Both rich and poor go about their daily businesses, largely oblivious of each other.
Seeing the two faces of a single city, especially one as populous and lively as Mumbai was a unique and unforgettable experience for me, which I shall cherish forever.
Niranjana is a Std IX student at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Tripunithura