Mapping Journeys

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Vinayak said, “Let us make a map of Dharavi. This map will point out where the diverse recycling and manufacturing units are located.” Vinayak is our new project coordinator and it was three days since he joined when he said this. It was summer, a hot May and our only defences were caps and bandannas. Sitaram, our logistics help and a red-blooded Dharaviite, was the able guide and he led us through the winding alleys and the little lanes into the heart of Dharavi.

Dharavi is no heart of darkness. Here are a variety of business (in fact there seems to be a business for everything here) that operate from little homes as well as large workhouses. From the rakhi makers in Social Nagar to the leather tanneries of AKG Nagar, manufacturers from home and abroad come here to either process raw materials or collect finished products.

The prevalence of many manufacturing units has also led to the presence of recycling units. Glass, plastics, paper, fabric, metal – it seems nothing is spared. Everything finds a purpose in this space.

While we surveyed, photographed, collected data and made friends, many were suspicious of our moves. They believed we had come from the Dharavi Redevelopment Plan belonging to the MHADA and suspected that we were sourcing sensitive information. We weren’t. For the most part, we were mesmerized by the work that takes place here. However when we went to MHADA to get detailed maps of Dharavi, we realised that the concerns of many workers and residents here were not unfounded.

We have photos and stories with us. We are thinking of a map as curious as the place itself.

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