Saturday, February 21, 2009

[Sunday, Feb. 22 (Happy Birthday George), 2009, 11 am Thai time] When I saw Slumdog Millionaire, I posted that I liked the movie, but it was basically Hollywood formula and glitz in a new setting. I was also concerned that the movie didn't really convey the complexity and richness of the Mumbai slums. I wrote:
Gregory David Roberts, for example in his book Shantaram seems to capture some of the spirit of the Bombay slums. He makes us feel its oppression, but also to see that despite what looks totally unlivable from a Western perspective, the inhabitants, like everyone else, live rich lives with joys as well as suffering.
A NY Times article today on protests in Mumbai against using the word slum in the movie, does a much more thorough job describing that these 'slums' are really very vibrant communities. Here's an excerpt - go to the link for the rest:

Its depiction as a slum does little justice to the reality of Dharavi. Well over a million “eyes on the street,” to use Jane Jacobs’s phrase, keep Dharavi perhaps safer than most American cities. Yet Dharavi’s extreme population density doesn’t translate into oppressiveness. The crowd is efficiently absorbed by the thousands of tiny streets branching off bustling commercial arteries. Also, you won’t be chased by beggars or see hopeless people loitering — Dharavi is probably the most active and lively part of an incredibly industrious city. People have learned to respond in creative ways to the indifference of the state — including having set up a highly functional recycling industry that serves the whole city.

Dharavi is all about such resourcefulness. Over 60 years ago, it started off as a small village in the marshlands and grew, with no government support, to become a million-dollar economic miracle providing food to Mumbai and exporting crafts and manufactured goods to places as far away as Sweden.
Certainly the movie brings much more attention to the situation and perhaps more people will actually be moved to find out more about this huge city within a city.

I see that I used both Bombay and Mumbai. The later is the new name for the city, but many, still use the older name.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.