Photo Essay – Rajiv Gandhi Jhuggi Camp, East Delhi
The Delhi walla‘s pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls – Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Slum guide for dummies.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Heady after Slumdog Millionaire‘s eight Oscars, The Delhi Walla has said tata-bye to monuments. It’s slum tourism, for now. While Dharavi in Mumbai has already spawned that trend, Delhi has no such dynamic hub of prosperity in adversity. But should you want to see for yourself how the ‘other half’ lives, I give you a handy primer, taking the Rajiv Gandhi Jhuggi Jhopri camp in east Delhi (next to Karkardooma flyover) as an example.
What are slums like?
From outside, you might think the first big gust of wind will sweep them away. But in truth, slum dwellings are tenacious – like the people who live in them.
What to expect inside?
Squalor, clogged drains, slush-filled alleys, but also – you’ll be surprised – happy families and neighbourly bonding, like in any colony anywhere in the world.
Can I visit a home?
Very conveniently. Slum dwellers don’t shut themselves behind locked doors. Walking past the houses, you can usually see what’s going on inside – somebody sleeping, somebody cooking, somebody staring, somebody bawling, somebody getting close to somebody else. Should you want to get in, try acting a little lost and maybe in need of some rest on a hot day. Ask, and you shall get an invitation.
What about privacy?
Washing dishes, brushing teeth, showers… all take place at the same public hand pump. On his field trip, this blogger found long queues outside a community loo. A funny sight: people clutching their tummies to ward off the ‘pressure’. The same thing you saw in Slumdog Millionaire.
Are our slums like Dharavi?
Nah. This place, at best, could attract a documentary film crew from JNU. But Hollywood? Forget it. There’s no Dharavi energy or enterprise here. At least, not visibly.
Are the kids street-smart like Slumdog‘s Jamal?
Well, there was no kid caked in crap; probably because Danny Boyle doesn’t live in Delhi. Kids here are cattier than Jamal, if anything. Hardly anyone appeared to be a future chaiwalla, or a gangster, or a gangster’s moll. Instead, the children were getting ready for school.
Such is life
Yet, life is cheery
Slice of sky
It’s all public
Shh, he’s reading
Off to the school