Jostling for space in Mumbai
By Danish Siddiqui
To live in the world’s second most populous country and city is itself an experience. When I was asked to do a feature story on the world’s population crossing the 7 billion mark, I realized it wasn’t going to be an easy task. This was simply because there were so many stories to tell in this city of dreams, Mumbai.
I chose to do a story on the living conditions of Mumbai’s migrant population who pour in to the city by the hour.
I decided to go to a slum which is inhabited mostly by migrants arriving from the northern part of India in search of a better future. Most of the migrants who live there work as taxi drivers and manual laborers. It was difficult to get access as they were always apprehensive of journalists. But I was able to convince a couple of them over a cup of tea after which they opened the doors of their one room world to me.
This same one room tenement acts as their bathroom, kitchen and living room. The one room is shared by at least 5 to 20 people who share the space, rent and other expenses.
When I first entered I was amazed to see how 10 people lived in 4.5 x 3 meters (15 x 10ft.) space. It had a small bathroom which was nothing but a one meter high wall creating a small enclosure in a corner. The room also had a slab to keep utensils and two huge containers to store water. Every inch of the room was smartly used to store the personal belongings of its occupants.
The occupants were a bit uncomfortable with my camera initially but adjusted to it over time. I called the occupants by their names which helped get rid of their initial inhibitions. I photographed the room and its occupants over four days and at different times as everyone would leave by 8 in the morning for work.
The lack of space never got in the way of the occupants having a good time and enjoying each others company. For millions of these migrants living in these conditions in their dream city they might not be living their dream but I am sure everyone is working hard to achieve it.
The youngest boy told me that he wants to become a pilot one day and fly with his family. I hope they all live to see their dream come true soon.
Millions of migrants swarm the streets of Mumbai, jostling for their inch in the big bad city everyday but the dense population of the city, with people from different regions of the country, gives Mumbai a unique special character.