Kevin stayed inside the slum with a local family, and made a film/documentary. Read some more about Kevin's film and experiences in another recent newsreport, that I have cut and pasted in its entirety below.
There must be at least 20 million staying in slums in cities and towns of my country. These Indian citizens would stand to benefit if the Indian government's politicians, bureaucrats and police force can just stop meting out injustices of various kinds.
The objection of Indian government includes the fact that Kevin had not disclosed accurately of his film while taking permit from the Indian High Commission in England. Well, if Kevin had disclosed the fact then he would not got the visa to travel to India at all. And, his film is not negative about the slum life. What happens inside the homes of many affluent Indians is also not necessarily clean and hunky dory.
Here then is Kevin talking about his experience in Dharavi:
Kevin McCloud on his trip to India
This Indian shanty town has Kevin McCloud rethinking some of his grand designs.
By Kevin McCloud
Published: 4:49PM GMT 08 Jan 2010
Imagine a town of a million people living in dark, cramped shanties and tenements. Their homes are rudimentary, tiny, spotless, with minimal sanitation. Five people inhabit each room. Every morning this industrious population rolls up its beds and in an instant transforms tens of thousands of living spaces into an informal network of freelance workshops, making and selling almost anything imaginable. This is the Mumbai district of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum and the supposed setting for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
But Dharavi is also an economic miracle, and its one square mile of shanties has a turnover of an estimated billion dollars. Plague, cholera and TB abound, but its citizens are among the happiest and most beautiful I’ve seen. If there were a world prize for best-dressed neighbourhood with special award for dazzling teeth it would go to Dharavi. When I went to film two programmes for Channel 4 about how Dharavi has organised itself, I felt the scruffiest person there.
Architects and urban planners are apt to celebrate Dharavi’s 80 neighbourhoods as a “proto-city”, in formation like an economic supernova. They like the chaotic, plan-free and dynamic way in which the people there organise their lives. Before I went I did not share their enthusiasm. I’ve always considered the design process as highly efficient and proven; the planning of space as important. Their enthusiasm begged the questions: what are the essential requirements for human beings to get on together and become happy? How dense can communities get? What, for that matter, is a community? Does privacy matter?
I found surprising answers to these questions when I stayed with families in Dharavi. In the ramshackle potteries district, where potters set fires in fuming, open kilns right outside their front doors, I lodged with Veni Patel, her husband, Anand, and the 19 other members of their family. Grandma lumps pots and clay around their tin shack workshop cum living room cum bedroom; Monica and Akhshay go – immaculately dressed and coiffed – to local schools, funded partly by the economic success of Dharavi. Monica wants to be an air hostess; Akhshay could follow his cousin into IT or even his neighbour, Dev, who’s a banker.
The complex lifestyle of these extended families that reaches across not just Dharavi, but Mumbai (with which the slum has a symbiotic relationship), revealed how flexible people have to be when living cheek by jowl in such tiny spaces. We, meanwhile, take for granted things like a bedroom — in other words, a room with just one designated role. As a Dharavi social worker put it: “Virtually every home doubles up as a productive space. Work at home if you can afford it. If you can’t then live at work.”
Privacy in the West is linked to physical space whereas to the average Dharavian it resides in the mind. It has to. The threshold of the home, the point between public and private space moves throughout the day with the use of that space. The potters in the family will also invade the alleys and squares with trays of their freshly turned pots before firing, claiming public space as their own for a short while. Over here they’d be fined for causing a health and safety risk. There it’s just part of the give and take – sharing.
It is this give and take that allows people there to live together in such large numbers. We live far more formalised and rigid lives, insisting on immutable thresholds to our homes, on fetishistic levels of cleanliness, light and space that Veni Patel would find risible. And yet, if we’re going to be living low-carbon lives in low-carbon houses in Britain, we’re going to have to figure out some very extensive ways of being flexible: sharing the resources we have to make them last.
Sharing is something that families in Dharavi do very well. The family is also the nucleus of social life, meaning that its members may know other households around the square but be oblivious to residents just one street away. After all, why bother to get to know another streetful of people when 19 of your relatives live in your house – when those same relatives greet you at the end of a back-breaking day in the sweatshop with a smile? The family, it seems, makes a huge contribution to the overall happiness of people in Dharavi and in India in general.
These were all intriguing revelations perhaps too woven into life in Dharavi to translate into the sustainable and ecological housing schemes that my company, Hab, and others are trying to realise in Britain. But there are wider lessons to learn: from the way Veni’s family share the public realm outside their front door and graciously accommodate their neighbours’ needs; from the car-free life they lead in which everything they need is available within a five-minute walk; from the lack of interest in material excess in favour, perhaps, of time shared. Not all these can be designed into a newbuild British scheme, but they can be given an opportunity to take root and flourish, as they have done in other European model communities.
Meanwhile, as the social observer Robert Neuwirth points out, a billion people currently live in slum conditions. That’s a sixth or so of the world’s population. By 2050 it will be three billion, a third. If you want to know what the worldwide city of tomorrow is, Dharavi is it.
- Kevin McCloud: Slumming It is on Channel 4 on Thursday at 9pm