This is Mumbai – Dharavi, a slum with 665 million annual turnover!

Metal cutters in Dharavi are very famous

Everything is RECYCLED and nothing is wasted in Dharavi!

Dharavi Panorama
Dharavi panorama as seen from Mahim foot-over bridge

I had a wish to tour this place but visiting it alone is not preferable by a non Mumbaiker, so by searching on the net I got a website naming Their business is to give the tour of Dharavi – One of Asia’s largest slums and the guide is a local individual residing in the place.

Plastic recycling industry
Plastic recycling industries are a common sight there

The tour began from Mahim station. As we proceeded, he took me to the industrial areas of Dharavi. In the beginning of the tour I was really excited and as well as a tad bit nervous because this place has been an area which is not preferred by most of the people and there is a sense of insecurity amongst many as it is one of the slum areas.

My excitement reached its peak as we were about to reach our destination. Entering into Dharavi gave me a different feeling in myself and a chill ran down my spine as I saw the underdeveloped slums. The huge sacks of waste material made me wonder…… is this place even worth visting?  But still, I continued my journey with my aspirations being high.

Lamborghini toy model in plastic scrap
Even Lamborghinis are common sight there

First destination: Plastic recycling industry

The first place we visited was the recycling industry. The plastic recycling industry was quite mesmerising. The daily jobs of the ragpickers is to collect garbage from all over Mumbai. It is like a team effort with their areas being fixed.

Plastic washer
Plastic recycling industries are a common sight there

The plastic  is sorted according to the grade, colour and quality. The plastic is crushed and then washed. In the end it is dried up and sold. Many of you might wonder that what is so unique about this place. The thing which was the most different for me was that these people, even after being illiterate had the talent of working in such big industries and helping big manufacturers in running their businesses. These people are never noticed nor are paid attention to but still they do their work with all their attention and they leave no stone unturned in completing their responsibilities. The plastic toy car of the great brand Lambhorgini made me think, that even  Lambhorgini can be found in the great Dharavi.

Brick kiln
Brick kiln for recycling aluminium

My second destination was the Metal industry. The guide told me that it is not allowed to click photographs in some places of this area because the setup there was illegal. Metal is collected here and the garbage is thrown away.

Metal cutter
Metal cutters in Dharavi are very famous

The machines being used are made by the people of Dharavi, those who are considered to be illiterate in our country but they are the skillfull workers whom we do not pay much importance to. Creation of such highly advanced machinery by the common people is a great thing, a thing of which we should be proud. These workers are paid just like peanuts even after being so skilled. This area makes me ponder upon the fact that gold can be found even in a trash bag if we have the will and determination to find it.

Potter in Kumharwada

Third destination- Kumharvada.
This was the area of potters. From a fertile land they collect the soil and process it and make pots out of it. They use the cloth thrown away by various shop owners to make heat in the kiln and they bake the earthen pots inside the heat created.

Potter painting pots
A potter painting earthen pots in Kumharwada


Scrap plastic carriers
Scrap plastic carriers in Kumharwada


Potter mending pots
Sights like these are very common as one can see potters mending pots on the streets


Brick kiln for baking earthen pots
Brick kiln for baking earthen pots


Earthen pots
Earthen pots like these – a common sight

These same earthen pots are sold at high prices in the posh localities of Mumbai. These workers, even after being paid less, are pretty happy in the work they do as they have a sense of responsibility towards their ‘alma mater’. The beautiful pots are really amazing, with potters sitting and mending on the streets, this view is just to die for!

Tailors in Dharavi

The Leather industry was my next stop.

Leather industries in dharavi
Leather industries in Dharavi is the most flourished industry

The annual turnover of this industry is Rs. 120 million. It is one of the largest industries in Dharavi. The raw leather is produced in the butcher houses , they dry up the animal skin and add chemicals to it. The washers and dryers are made in the slums by the so called uneducated people. This leather is then exported to many developed nations and is used in brands like Gucci, Armani, Versache, etc., from one of the Asia’s biggest slums. The quality of the leather produced is very good and the product is 100% pure proving that people like us can never survive without people like them.

Locals in Dharavi
Locals in Dharavi are very hospitable

Even after being an area where fights on the basis of religion was common, people live in unity as the Hindus are dependent on the Muslims for non-vegetarian delights and the Muslims are dependent on the Hindus for the vegetarian food which they relish.

Dharavi pipeline
Long pipeline which has witnessed many movie shootings like “Slumdog millionare”

As I was exploring this place, I was startled to see how hospitable and friendly the people were despite the odds and conditions. These people cooperated with me at every point of my photoshoot and were pretty happy that I was interested in visiting that area. Such behaviour of the people made me change my perspective and made me think that this place is not a threat to anyone and this place is an area which is worth giving your time for.

Nallah in Dharavi
A Nallah in Dharavi which drains out in the sea

Dharavi needs to be carved as it is a diamond without polish which nobody is concerned about. Even my tour guide was a well-educated person staying in the slums itself. The humble personality of that boy proved that only money cannot be the sole reason for someone’s good inner self. This tour to Dharavi was an experience which brought a change in my thought process and I realised that even those with limited means to livelihood can be extremely talented!