When I left Paris a few months back, I only had a vague idea of what Dharavi would look like. I imagined a very dense area where thousands, millions of people lived in precarious accommodation. I thought that the streets would all be dodgy alleyways leading from one home to another. Even though I knew I was going to work in one of the biggest slum in Asia, I had no idea how big it really was. And I didn’t want to learn too much about it before going: I wanted my clichés to be shattered by experience.
dysfunctional. But if you stopped for a minute and looked carefully at how the cars, the pedestrians, and even the animals were moving up the roads, it looked like some sort of modern ballet, where everyone had a place and a role to play.
by spending too much time in a slum. But as I leave Dharavi, I’m bringing home incredible memories, true friendships and a valuable experience working in a completely different environment.
a fashion magazine, I didn’t have any opportunity to meet our readers and felt like I was stuck in an ivory tower, completely disconnected to reality. In Dharavi, I sat only a few meters away from the beneficiaries of Reality Gives’ programs. I was able to see the impact the NGO had on them, I was able to talk with them and I knew why I was doing all this for. With the help of the incredibly nice and devoted team I was working with, I was able to use my skills in a very different way. While I used to write about fashion designers and up-and-coming talents, I was now helping on the annual report of the NGO, designing application forms for the students and doing the layout of English lessons developed by our education and curriculum director. Inspired by how passionate my colleagues were and by the impact the NGO had on people’s lives, I worked as hard as I could, because I knew I was there for a short period of time.
veg stalls, and shabby restaurants. I would look at the cats gathering around the lady who sold fish, at the chicken in cages that were about to get cooked, and at the goats wandering around the streets. But what I loved the most was observing people as they were getting ready for their day. A lot of them were staring back at me: some looked amused, most of them looked intrigued. Occasionally, a man would come and ask me where I was from and what my name was. After a small chat, I would go on walking through the streets, breathing in the smell of incense and soap mixed with fresh meat, sewage and pollution.