Beaches are celebrated to be a neighborhood for recreation, a place to let go of the day-to-day life and have a quiet time. It is, in most metropolitan cities, also known for its beach side properties and sea-facing villas for the affluent communities. But Mumbai, India’s economy capital differs from most cities. In this city, the beach becomes a liaison for the prosperous and the underprivileged. Residencies of both the prosperous businessmen and the deprived slum dwellers within kilometers of one another are hard to miss. The rich build high white-washed walls and fences around their villas and the underprivileged hang and dry clothes on them. The closed sea facing windows of the air conditioned rooms compliment the window-less shanties. The high walls meant to keep privacy inside the bungalows are used by couples who sit on the other side of the wall for a quick afternoon romance, seeking a piece of the privacy for themselves. In these beaches people’s resilience in co-existing and conquering the hardships of the social order become prevalent. A symbiotic relationship prevails, working and living through social discrepancy, and an act of triumph of human spirit, ignored perhaps because of their own cultural baggage.
About one million people live in Asia’s largest slum – Dharavi. Located in central Mumbai, the economic capital of India, this slum houses people migrating from all over India to follow their dreams . The people live in dire conditions and hope for a better tomorrow every day. This photo story explores hope, through the eyes of the next generation, the children in Dharavi.
There are a handful of schools in this vastly populated area. Madrasa Gausia Gulshane Bhagdar is one such school. Funded by Baba Lalmia Kakri trust, a small one room ‘kothi’, with a signboard above the gate is what comprises of the school. Approximately thirty five students study in this school, ranging from five year olds to sixteen -seventeen year olds. This school was started seventeen years ago . Sayyiad Lalmia is one of the only two teachers of this institution.
The school or madrasa has a strict curriculum. It provides religious teachings in Hifz – the memorization of The Holy Quran. Many of these children are pulled out from schools to work for their parents, to support the family, a handful only remain in schools every year. “Because kids get distracted easily and commit to the world of crime, we are trying to set the right goal for them, make them better human beings and give them hope through our teachings. We show them the way of Allah. By the time they leave the madrasa they will be ready for an honest life. “, says Sayyiad.
Life in Dharavi is arduous, and these children have to face the hardships from the very first days of their lives. But the next generation of slum dwellers still search for hope.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival in India celebrated in honor of the elephant god Ganesha. It is usually a ten day festival and on the eleventh day the idol is immersed into a local water body such as a pond, lake, river or sea. It is notably one of the biggest celebrations in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra the idols are immersed in the Arabian sea and this practice has garnered a lot of controversy. According to a study conducted by Central Pollution Control Board in Bangalore, these idols cause massive changes in the water body and harm the environment. The idols are made of a chemical called PoP (Plaster of Paris) which is not a naturally occurring substance. During immersion these harmful substances like PoP and chemical paints dissolve into the water and can take from a few months to years to dissolve.
They increase the acid content in the water bodies. The TDS (Total dissolved solid) is increased by a staggering 100% . According to the study, the heavy metal content has shown an increase in metals such as iron which increased nearly 10 times and the content of copper in the sediments increased by 200 to 300 %. The government is trying to change this practice by promoting immersions in artificial tanks built specifically for this purpose.
Many schools and colleges organize cleaning drives, day after the immersion but not all idols wash back ashore in that time. It does keep the beaches clean but by that time, most of the PoP and paint has washed back into the water.
These photographs are a representation of what the sea had returned back. All shot a day after the clean up drive (i.e. two days after the actual immersion). This just proves that the clean up drive is not a permanent solution and people need to change their practice to save the environment. The beach turns into a graveyard for the God’s mortal remains and it is quite haunting to see parts of the idol – a hand, an elephant trunk, half a body laying there, neglected in the sand.