Saturday, June 21, 2008


Yesterday (Friday the 20th), we visited the Dharavi slums and experienced firsthand the living conditions in the slums of Mumbai. Afterwards, both mentally and physically exhausted, we ventured to a mall in a northern suburb of Mumbai, Muland (5km from Vikroli), only to find the mall shut and a mob forming over the killing of a protester by the private security forces of the leader of the outcast Sikh group, Dera Sacha Sauda. Today, the morning news showed video of violent protests at the Muland railway station and on the streets of the suburb, less than 100 meters from the mall. These two events proved to be very hectic and exhausting for the entire group. However, for many, both events were very new, overwhelming, and interesting.
Visiting the Dharavi slums was an eye-opening experience. The first of two homes that the group visited was in a packed, cramped alley. The houses were so closely linked that the roofs blocked out most of the light. The resident of the home said that she and her family have to move around every fifteen days, since they do not own a home. Two of her four children were hearing impaired, and another had polio. She and her family had left their village to provide a better life for her children. One of her hearing impaired children attends the STCI Special Care Center. The second home that we visited was located off of a main thoroughfare inside the slum. The house had three floors, fans, lights, a television, and a Nintendo game system. Three brothers and their families lived there. The structure was entirely legal, and the family had to pay Rs. 100 (Approximately $2.50) per month as rent. A highlight of this visit was the hospitality shown by the residents. Soon after we arrived, one of the members of the community went to purchase a large bottle of the popular soft drink, Thumbs Up. We were complete outsiders in an extremely poor community, and yet we were still made to feel extremely welcome.
The protests at the Muland Mall gave a true depiction of the role religion plays in India. It showed how religion can change relatively small events into a state or even a nation-wide affair. The news stated that the police in the entire state of Maharashtra were put on high alert, and extra officers were sent to the Sikh communities across the state to prevent more protests and violence.
Today (June 21st), we saw another side of India. We shopped at the brand new, state-of-the-art, Oberoi Shopping Mall. The mall gave us an excellent example of India's recent rapid economic development. Inside the mall were countless stores selling all brands one might find in any mall across the globe, an arcade, a multiplex cinema, and an extensive food court. We were in the mall for over three hours, and the entire group had a lot of fun. One of my peers even said that "this is the nicest mall I've ever visited."
We also visited the popular destination for Mumbaikars and Tourists alike, Juhu Beach. The beach was filled with people enjoying the view and the breeze. However, the entire beach, and the water was littered with trash. We explored the beach for over thirty minutes. For dinner, we enjoyed an excellent meal at the Hotel Sea Princess, within walking distance of the beach.
These past two days have been overwhelming, thought-provoking, and have given me much more perspective on my own life. I have experienced mobs, slums, malls, and beaches, and each event has given me new information on the development of both Mumbai and India as a whole. India is a country of stark contrasts; office buildings housing international corporations and brand new international schools neighbor Asia's second largest slum. However I believe that for in order for India to continue to sustain the relative economic prosperity and development of the past decade, something must be done to diminish the discrepancies that currently exist within India. Although India has come a long way since its independence sixty-one years ago, there is still much more work to be done. As the trip progresses, I hope to find out what tactics are being implemented currently and what else can be done to decrease these discrepancies.

-Aditya (Phillips Academy '10)


RM Sykes said...

While this comment follows "Contrasts" it is meant as an acknowledgement of all the postings thus far. Thank you for your evocative observations and reflections. Also, in the midst of the strife, be safe. - RM Sykes

HeyShaLaNeyNo said...

Second that...really great first hand observations.