I walked tirelessly, on the 22nd of March, through Asia’s largest and densest slum, Dharavi, to reach the Machimar colony, located in Mahim. The walking tour convinced me that Mumbai itself is not willing to be understood straightforwardly. The more I sought to feel Mumbai, the profounder it grew in complexity, mystery and splendor. The media did not fail to project the terrifying destitution of Dharavi and Mahim but my tour largely proved them wrong. People are not numbers. The people of Dharavi and Mahim have stories and emotions too, though they are often numbered and overlooked. I walked daringly and did not hesitate to open up to people.
I remember having knocked at numerous doors and went directly to the question, “Namaste. Can I take a picture of yours?”
Either I was curtly refused or silence settled. But I eventually made my way through to engage the locals in enriching exchanges. On my way to Machimar colony, I witnessed ancient flimsy and crumbling buildings, litter-filled roads occupied by beggars and a busy fish market. The distinctive scent of the sea blended with the tides of summer confirmed that I was nearing the shore. I was enthralled by the spirit of the people. They were hospitable, full of life and open. Nevertheless, a tinge of disappointment instantly settled in when I walked across the shore. I thought I would try to evade the shells and the rocks on the beach, but the reality was much less. The shore was filled with piles of garbage and the sand was quite dark.