Source:Blogadda book review program
First Published:June 2012
The outsider is blind to the drudgery of Dharavi.He chooses to see a colourful,creatively inspirational mess.We watch these blindmen as they scramble over the elephant of Dharavi.it is an amusing sight and,at the same time,a tragic one.
Poor Little Rich Slum is the 4 th book from best selling author,RashmiBansal.While her first 3 books have been about successful enterpreneurs, in ‘PLRS’ she(along with Deepak Gandhi) has chosen to tell the story of Asia’s largest slum-Dharavi.The book is infact the success story of Dharavi-the special economic zone with no founder,no CEO but the entrepreneurial organisation for a million people who strive hard to make the best life possible for themselves.The book shows us that Dharavi which is full of life,hope and positive energy.Thanks to the wonderful people at Blogadda that I am here reviewing this cute little book by the Nation’s best selling author.
At some point in the book,the authors ask a pertinent question;”Is it right to parade poverty as just another tourist attraction Mumbai has to offer?”This exactly was the thought that was going through my mind when I picked up this book.Post ‘Slum Dog Millionaire’,a lot has been written and talked about the country’s largest slum.But after finishing ‘PLRS’ I can confidently say that this is one book that gives a three dimensional view of the Big,Fat Problem that is Dharavi.The book is divided into 4 sections.While the first one is titled ‘Dharavi,What Ees?’, the second,third and fourth are named ‘The Incubator’,’Cauldron of Change’and‘TheFuture’respectively.The book begins reminding the reader,the story of the elephant and the four blindmen.
Poor Little Rich Slum-What the authors saw..
Section 1:Dharavi,What Ees?- This section is sort of an ‘intro’ to the world named Dharavi.It tells us how it all began,grew and reached it’s present state.Here in this section we meet the ‘dharavi slum tour’ operators,the children at ‘transit camp Municipal School’,the outsiders like Srini who chose to work in Dharavi inspite of having had an option to do otherwise,to name a few.The section ends with the authors sharing the results of an interesting survey that they had conducted among Urban College students.
Section 2:The Incubator-In this section,we see Dharavi,the ‘incubator’ which made people like Jameel Shah(Shah Shoes-which makes dancing shoes for Bollywood stars like Priyanka Chopra),MohdMuztaqeem(CM Craft-his company has got an annual turn over of more than 12 crores),PanjuSwamy(AyyapanIdli Stall),Anwar(INMA),Rani Nadar( Rebe Ruby tailoring centre)successful entrepreneurs.
Section 3:Couldron of Change-In this part,we are introduced to those good souls who are trying their best to sow the seeds of change in Dharavi.We meet human beings like Ramji Raghavan,Dr Duru Shah(who kick started the ’kishori project’ for the adolescent girls of Dharavi)who work hard so that the slum dwellers can lead a better,happy and contended life.
Section 4:The Future-Mainly looks at the issue of slum redevelopment.Here in this section people like Krishna Prajapati*(who makes pots for a living) and Raju Korde(lawyer and social activist) explain why they don’t support the Dharavi Redevelopment Plan.
The book tries to look beyond the obvious,thefilth,the garbage that one usually associates with Dharavi and fruitfully manages to see the revolution of energy and enterprise.Be it Syed Gani who has to deny his roots to get ‘acceptance’ in the outside world or Tauseef,the guide who takes tourists through Dharavi during slum tours,all have one thing in common-the zeal to win against all odds and to lead the life of their dreams.Bhansal’s and Gandhi’s writing is crisp and razor sharp.Most importantly,they know where to stop.So you won’t find painfully long chapters or pages of self indulgent prose in this book.At the same time they haven’t shied away from discussing the real issues concerning the slum dwellers.Be it the lack of hygiene/in human conditions that they are forced to live in or SRA-the double edged sword that it is,all get a mention in ‘PLRS’ .The Slum Rehabilitation Authority schemes have only evoked mixed results,observes the book.
The stories in this book are inspiring as well as thought provoking.Without getting preachy or sentimental the book salutes the never- say- die attitude of the people of Dharavi.Take the story of Jockin Arputham,the kid who metamorphosed himself from a ‘tamilian street boy’ to the ‘king among slum activists’,for instance.The description of his tryst with the Municipal Corporation is motivating. The story of Soaib Grewal,a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design who has set up ‘Waterwalla’(in Dharavi),a social enterprise which aims to introduce clean water technologies to urban slums is equally inspiring.
What I liked the most about the book:
1The writing:PLRS never stoops down to (the level of) ‘poverty porn’,neither does it try to cash in the ‘slum relocation-Mumbai development’ sentiments.The book is a genuine/honest account of what the authors saw in Asia’s largest slum.
2.The book design:The folks at studio ABD deserve special mention.The book has got a wonderful lay out and design.The font (size)could have been bigger though.
3.The photos by Dee Gandhi:The lively and beautiful photos by Dee Gandhi has enormously helped this book.A book like PLRS would have definitely become monotonous had the authors not included those beautiful snaps.The selection of photos as well as their placement in the book gives the reader the feeling of having taken a tour through the streets of Dharavi.
What I didn’t like:
1.The book has got a number of sentences/quotes/conversations in Hindi.I wish they had given their English translation too.It would have definitely helped the South Indian/Non Hindi speaking(like me)readeras well as the International readers.
2.The book is only 184 pages long.The book got over leaving me wanting for more!
Bottom Line-PLRS is one of the best books that I have read in recent times.For me,this book is Ms Bansal’s best work till date.I am giving 4/5 for this enlightening read.This is one book that celebrates the spirit of human enterprise,in it’s natural form-raw and extreme.A Must Read!
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-reviewed by nikhimenon.(please do not copy)