Authors: Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi
About the Book
Poor Liitle Rich Slum is a book that explores a well known slum in Mumbai, Dharavi. It’s a big community, a settlement in place since many generations and has people making their living over there. But what’s really interesting is the love the residents have for Dharavi and the contentment they feel while living and working there.
How is it that Dharavi has so much when it comes to being considered as a ‘community’? There are almost all kinds of shops, people doing all kinds of work, kids going to school in Dharavi, social activists and doctors, teachers and shoe makers. Why isn’t the redevelopment plan the Government made decades ago, not even starting? The authors explore the area, talk to people and come up with astonishing facts. Facts that everyone must know, facts from which we all can learn, learn how to live a satisfied life.
The setting is the area of Dharavi, considered ‘Asia’s largest slum’ in Mumbai, yet this isn’t fiction. Every story about every person is cent per cent true and actually, very inspiring. Dharavi isn’t new to ‘visitors’; the curious guys who want to make documentaries, NGOs, people looking for a place to stay, tour guides giving visitors the ‘Dharavi Slum Tour’ (really). The residents of Dharavi are very busy in their own lives, living in 10 x 10 ft houses and 1,400 people sharing a common toilet. The interesting point is, those who’ve made Dharavi their home, can never think of leaving it. Even if they do so physically, they’re always connected with their hearts. That’s what fascinated authors Rashmi Bansal, Deepak Gandhi and photographer, Dee Gandhi, who went and explored Dharavi for all its fascinating aspects and to understand what makes Dharavi the workers’ hub that it is.
When you read about what the residents feel about their ‘home’, you cannot help feeling all warm inside, even if they’re talking about a place that’s surrounded by huge garbage dumps and perpetually smelling of something unpleasant. But that’s how it is, it’s their home, the place where they’ve learned to live and to work. Many who came to Mumbai from other cities in search for work found a home in Dharavi, with its cheap accommodation and work. There’s work for almost everything. From recycling to making dancing shoes, from running a gym with more than 300 members to a company that exports stylish clothes, everyone’s made their thing in Dharavi.
This is the thing the authors wish to convey; how we must take inspiration from the slum dwellers who’re motivated enough to start and run their own enterprises, in their own place of dwelling. How the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ concept works in Dharavi. No one’s idle, they work, they live, they teach their kids the trade and provide them education, they accept and move on to new, available technology. They’re happy. 10 x 10 ft houses stacked one over the other with ladders for upper floors and 8 people in a house, they’re still happy. Quoting the authors, ‘Is this enough, we wonder? We can’t ask these questions because they are stupid. Life is thriving here, obviously people somehow adjust.
They adjust to lack of privacy.
They adjust to lack of hygiene.
They adjust to lack of progress.’
After knowing about them, we really have to wonder, ‘Is the middle class way of life really better?’
There are stories about some residents who’ve done really well, like a boy who was homeless and had run away from home in some other city, Jameel Shah now makes dance shoes and has Katrina Kaif, Kylie Minogue, Priyanka Chopra and others as clients. Or Rani Radar, who runs a tailoring center and sends both of her girls to study, one in school and the other in college. There are many more inspirational stories, of these small entrepreneurs who made it to what they wanted, and working for more.
Apart from what residents do and their way of living, the book also has stories about different kinds of people and workers who’ve come to Dharavi from other places and made efforts to improve the situation. Be it volunteers for ‘Teach for India’, who’ve found innovative ways to encourage people to send their kids to school and have taught them English, or an acupuncturist who set up his clinic in Dharavi, seeing how he’s been able to treat the residents effectively and with a nominal fee.
When you look at it from a larger perspective, you see a fully functioning society content with their state, yet striving towards personal perfection. No one’s really bothered if the Government hasn’t yet begun with the redevelopment, they’re happy with it as it is. Because it’s a place they call their own. The book has been written in a way that’s very engaging, since it includes dialogues and parts of conversations with people and that is something that makes it very interesting. The best part about it all is, there are pictures of those people in Dharavi, their places of work, the products they make, their homes and the structures, the schools and the shops. The pictures really add a very interesting dimension to the book’s theme. The thoughtful lines at the end of each chapter really make you think about entrepreneurial possibilities, inspire you with the zeal and zest to live and work among the residents of Dharavi, about how we can work to make a difference, about how one can learn a million little things from a million little people in the marginal sections of society. It’s something that gives us, the ‘middle class’, hope, helps the budding MBAs and other professionals see an alternate way of working.
Recommended for: It’s a must-read for youngsters, to-be entrepreneurs, business personnel and everyone, really.