Dharavi: The prized real estate

SHIV KUMAR’s “Dharavi: Largest slum is prized real estate” (Spectrum, July 29) was really extensive. It took readers through the journey of its history and progressive evolution. Dharavi is not the largest slum of Asia, Karachi’s Orangi Township has surpassed it. Other slum pockets also rival Dharavi in size and squalor.

Last year, during a medical conference I visited Dharavi and interacted with people and found them to be the most energetic people in the city. As rightly described, every home produces something to sell. Women make and sell textiles, papadums, pickles, incense sticks, soft toys and candles.

People are crammed into a small area. They live in filthy surroundings strewn with rubbish, excrement and pools of filthy water because there are no amenities. Inside their homes are spotless and well kept. Dharavi’s residents are extremely house-proud. According to research in 2006, 85 per cent of households have a television, 56 per cent a gas stove and 21 per cent own a telephone.


The government sees Dharavi as a blemish on an unreal otherwise “perfect” city. Slum dwellers deserve affordable housing, access to clean water, toilets, education and the opportunity move on up along with the right to more self-determination than they are being offered. Residents need to experience a change of living conditions while not necessarily having to change in how they should run their life.


Insider’s account

CBI: The Naked Truth—An Insider’s Account” by B.R. Lall (Spectrum, July 15) was thought-provoking. Why did the former CBI Director Joginder Singh take the case of the JMM from the then SP Aruna Sinha? This creates suspicion in the minds of the public that Joginder Singh had not done his duty to safeguard the interests of the country.


He lived for others

Reema Anand’s write-up “He breathed and lived Gurbani” (Sunday Oped, June 3) was interesting. Bhagat Puran Singh was a unique personality, whose like we shall not see again. Dressed in scruffy, crumpled clothes of coarse khadi, he possessed all the sterling traits implicit in his epithet Bhagat. He was a ruby in rags.

In the Pingalwara, he collected monetary donations, he looked after leprous, insane and destitute persons. Whenever I saw him sitting at the entrance of Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar giving leaflets, handbills, etc on different issues to devotees, I burst into spontaneous heartfelt applause for him and crooned the couplet: Khuda to milta hai insaan hee naheen milta/ Ye cheez woh hai jo dekhee kaheen kaheen main ney.

He was truly a perfect insaan devoted to the noble cause of relieving pain and sufferings of helpless patients. He associated himself with the realities, problems and practical aspects of normal life. Humility and forbearance were his hallmarks. He greeted visitors with an angelic smile.

I never found him crotchety. Once I saw him caressing a lunatic, who abused him. Despite having very little academic education, he was a voracious reader, possessed ocean of knowledge and spoke eloquently on various subjects.

Tailpiece: Centuries ago, a Sufi poet, Shaikh Saadi, said: Neem naaney gar khurad mard-e-khuda Bazl-e-darveshaan kunad neem-e-digar (if a man of God eats half a bread, he gives the other half to mendicants). Bhagatji actually did it. Once, tormented by hunger, he was sitting under a tree. A crow carrying a piece of bread came there. The bread fell from its beak. Bhagatji ate half of it and left the other half for some one else, who might be in need of food. I salute his memory.


Disturbing trend

Vibha Sharma’s article “Day of the detective” (Saturday Extra, July 21) was interesting. Marriage in India is considered a sacred bond between two souls. Nowadays marriage has become a jamboree. Marriages are solemnised with great fanfare, ostentation and flaunting of wealth but they are broken on flimsy grounds in no time.

Disloyalty, fickleness, insincerity and flippant behaviour have made things come to such a pass.


Soulful songs

The article “Her voice lives on” by M.L. Dhawan (Spectrum, July 15) gave an insight into the life and work of Geeta Dutt. She captivated her listeners mostly through her sensuous and coquettish songs. Her songs like Hoon abhi main jawan (Aar-Paar), Jane kya tune kahi (Pyaasa), Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishana (CID), Babuji dheere chalna (Aar-paar) brought out the seductive appeal of her voice.

However, pain came alive in songs like Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool), the evergreen (Pritam aan milo, Hai ye duniya kaun se (Sailab) and the soulful (Kaise koi jiye, zeher hai zindagi (Badbaan). Her lori Hawa dhere aana in Sujata has its own standing.

In 1970, in the annual Durga Pooja function in Pune, she enthralled listeners with her melodious voice. She rounded up the programme with the song of her own tormented life, Mera sunder sapna beet gaya, main pyaar mein sub kuchh haar gaye, bedard zamana jeet gaya (Do Bhai). And shortly afterwards she was no more. n

H.S. SANDHU, Panchkula 



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