Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Slums of Bombay

I hate to add to the stereotypes of India: I already have an update about cows, and now I have an update about omnipresent slums. At the same time, it's something I found shocking about Bombay. This picture is typical: It seems to be the camp of an extended family, there's kids playing on the trees or taking a bath, women selling small produce, clothes drying...

There's different classes of destitute, from the rich-destitute who are part of a larger encampment, to the medium-destitute like above, who stake out a plot of land, to the destitute-destitute, who just sleep on the sidewalk:

Some of the houses don't appear all that much better. This picture was taken directly across the street from the city's toniest mall, it's wildly overcrowded and the roof seems to be made of garbage:

The picture at top showed women selling fruits and vegetables, I assume it's bought from wholesellers and then re-sold at a very slight profit. This kind of petty commerce was everywhere in India, to a much greater extent than in Shanghai. Some of these markets can get incredibly crowded and active, even when they don't seem to be near anything else.

For the most part it seems to be women's work, while the men work somewhere downtown. I should also mention that even the fanciest shops in Bombay amount to mom-and-pop stores, and established markets only seem half a step up from street-side sellers.

A common thing to see is people selling flowers, they're often made into garlands, lei-like chains which often honor dead relatives or gods. There can be a strange contrast between the beauty of the garlands and the ugliness of the enviornment.

Women's clothes are also extremely colorful and beautiful, and even women who are I figured to be incredibly poor were dressed gorgeously.

Shanghai has a larger population, much of which is also very poor, but has nothing to compare to this - Shanghai feels a lot more organized, whereas Bombay gave the feeling of constantly being in the middle of a very large crowd, or perhaps of a massively over-grown, over-stuffed village.

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