Dharavi Tamil Community: Group Interview with Women in Tamil Chawl
Director: Richa Hushing
Duration: 00:29:23; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 11.619; Saturation: 0.075; Lightness: 0.358; Volume: 0.211; Cuts per Minute: 16.259; Words per Minute: 120.683
Summary: The following footage is of multiple interviews in Tamil, of Tamil residents in Dharavi, mostly mischievous old women, with such playful attitudes and sense of humour that even made our crew nervous. All the families interviewed here have migrated from Thirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu and live here in tiny apartments with their family members across three generations. They are very different from the group of tamils who came to start tanneries in the ‘50s. These people are more like wage workers who come to the city to try their hands on anything.
According to Mr. Kanakaraj, a resident of Dharavi, due to the caste atrocities many Tamil working – class and lower- class people migrated to Bombay in the beginning of the 20th century. (For more info see event Dharavi: Redevelopment for a Tamil Working Class Man). Bombay provided these migrants with various opportunities and their own space in Dharavi. But both these issues have been addressed in Tamil Nadu, to an extent, in last couple of decades. But the flow of migration still continues as these families in Tamil chawl have migrated to Bombay in last 20 years.. It could be the hope for plenty in the metropolises or the lack of development initiatives in the villages. Amenities, more than survival, can play an important role in contemporary lives, in terms of choosing the location to reside.
For these families, visits to Tamil Nadu are sparse, but they have recreated Tamil Nadu right here in Dharavi. Their children can speak in Hindi, English and Marathi, but also fluent in Tamil. They practice festivals like Pongal, (but inside their homes), watch Tamil television and live on their staple diet of sambhar (a South Indian preparation of vegetable stew). At the same time they love Bombay and consider Dharavi their ‘home’. This can be called an example of multiple citizenship. It is heartening to see how ordinary people can negotiate so many identities simultaneously. This chawl is a Tamil ghetto owned by Laxminaray Sivan, one of the Tamil migrants of the previous generation of Dharavi – his family migrated in the ‘50s. (for more about him please see the file ‘Dharavi Tamil Community: Interview with Slumlord Laxminarayan Sivan).
Montage on the streets and chawl.
Our camera and crew are inside the predominantly Tamil populated area of Dharavi. The residents are going about their daily business – filling water, washing clothes, relaxing in the shade etc, most of them oblivious to the camera watching them.
The board of the "Slum Rehabilitation Authority" (SRA) stands tall, towering over the wide, but short, ghetto.
The bylanes seem much cleaner than my idea of Dharavi – as the uninformed stereotypes had imagined them to be. One really cannot identify that this is a part of the ill-famed Dharavi, It very well could be mistaken for a neighbourhood in Tamil Nadu.
Prathyusha: Were you born in Mumbai?
Lady in pink: Yes.
Lady in Pink: Here, Mumbai.
Prathyusha: In Dharavi?
Lady in Pink: Yes.
Prathyusha: Is that your mother?
Lady in Pink: Yes, my mother. This is my mother.
Lady in Pink: Do you know him? (Dinesh, Chandrasekar's grandson)
Prathyusha: Yes. We spoke to his grandfather… Can you switch off the fan for a minute?... Thanks.
Prathyusha: You were telling me, there is no business in your village and so you came here.
Old lady 1: People come here to earn a living, right? If Thirunelveli had opportunities, people wouldn't come here. There should be a good company there. What to do? (laughs)
Lady in Pink: Uncle, you come and talk too. Just come!
pr: I will talk to you and then talk to him.
Lady in Pink: Do so. Go to his place. He speaks really well.
Prathyusha: So tell me, it's been 10 years here. What's the difference between being at home in Thirunelveli and here?
Old lady 1: Difference is that prices are much high, right.
Old lady 1: Here. Anything and everything costs, not like in our place. There, you can collect twigs from trees, burn the stove, boil food and eat. Here's it all money. Unaffordable.. Quarter kilogram of bhaji is 7-8 rupees.
Prathyusha: No other difference? There, at home…
Old lady 1: its hotter there than here.
Prathyusha: You say it's lesser here…
Old lady 1: It is hot, but the breeze here doesn't let it show.
Prathyusha: Otherwise, what do you feel? If you had brought up your children there… you did bring up your son there?
Old lady 1: If kids grow up there, there aren't so many diseases. Here, we are under the fan all the time. That makes (us) sick, right?
Prathyusha: Don't you feel the difference of city and language?
Old lady 1: That's Tamil Nadu. Here, they speak Hindi, Marathi and everything. That's a difference, right?
Prathyusha: Is that good?
Old lady 1: Good. Good. Bad also… but good. Actually, good to know so many languages, right?
Prathyusha: But, you teach them Tamil at home?
Old lady 1: Yes, we do.
Prathyusha: So, kids at your place can read and write Tamil?
Old lady 1: Yes. They study in English medium, and can read Hindi, Marathi and Tamil.
Prathyusha: Read and write too?
Old lady 1: Yes. But, all those boys there study Hindi and Marathi… We haven't collected water… its 5 'o' clock!
Lady in Pink: We will… we will…
Prathyusha: How long does the water come for?
Both: Till 6:30.
Prathyusha: You collect water like this daily?
Prathyusha: When does the water start coming?
Old lady 1: 4:00. And stops at 6:30.
Prathyusha: You had similar problems in Thirunelveli?
Lady in Pink: No. No.
Old lady 1: Thirunelveli had a river, water from the river. And we got nice water to drink there like this.
Lady in Pink: There were vaikaals, ponds near-by, we drink it, take a bath there…
Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu
This lady in her pink "nighty" and her mother tell us the model story of the migrant from Tamil Nadu to Mumbai. They shifted to Mumbai from the village of Thirunelveli and chose Dharavi as their home. It's a catch 22 as they migrated to Mumbai to earn more money, however living here is not cheap as it was in their village and they find it rather difficult to keep their earnings up to the growing prices. Dharavi as a migratory destination is not for Tamil people. The first lot of people from tamil Nadu came here in the '50s and started tanneries. Some of them graduated to become underworld dons, builders and politicians of various hues. Interestingly many of those people too came from Thirunelveli, the same area where this family have come from. One of those former migrants, Laxminarayan Sivan, owns this chawl.
A peek into their space shows us the basic Dharavi home – a kitchen cum sitting area, utensils decorated neatly on the walls and shelves, their meal ready in 3-4 covered utensils in the corner, and a door that leads to the second room.
Old lady 1: Now, when you get married, everyone demands so much jewelry. Where do you go for so many jewels?
Prathyusha: So, you came here?
Old lady 1: Not because of that. People should reduce such systems, right.
Prathyusha: They don't ask here?
Old lady 1: They do. 1 kilo or 2 kilos. Where do I go for that?
Prathyusha: So, you have to come here to work?
Old lady 1: Even if you work, how will you get it? We have to struggle and do it.
Prathyusha: Men work everywhere. But, you have been at home there and here, right? What difference do you perceive?
Old lady 1: Women work everywhere.
Prathyusha: You have always been at home right, or have you worked?
Old lady 1: I have worked.
Prathyusha: You have worked before?
Old lady 1: Yes.
Prathyusha: In your village or here?
Old lady 1: in the village, I worked in the fields…
Prathyusha: So, don't you miss that here?
Old lady 1: But, I worked here, right?
Prathyusha: Here, in Mumbai? Where?
Old lady 1: Export…
Prathyusha: I don't understand.
Old lady 1: Export company.
Prathyusha: Oh! So, you worked in an export company. And now, you are at home.
Old lady 1: Now, it's too strenuous. I am old.
Prathyusha: How was it working in Mumbai?
Old lady 1: There it's hot, here it's shady, that's the difference.
Lady in Pink: There, we worked in the heat; here we were in the shade, no other difference.
Prathyusha: But, don't you feel bad that you have left your village behind?
Lady in Pink: Nothing like that.
Old lady 1: They are photographing…
Lady in Pink: Yes, photographing… (laughing)
Old lady 1: But, we have to catch the water…
Prathyusha: Ok, is that so. Ok, Thank you.
Old lady 1: ok.
The stereotype of our Indian patriarchal system is that the man works and the woman stays at home and cooks. But here, not only did this lady work in the fields back in her village, but she also worked in an export company in Mumbai. That off course is in addition to the work load at home, either in the village or in the city. She, most probably, meant a leather company which supplies goods for export. Tamils have originally started the leather industry in Dharavi. (for more detail on this please see 'Dharavi Leather Industry' files on this site). But now families like this work as wage workers for the industry.
Access to water is a major issue in the city. It is sort of criminal to engage women into a conversation around evening when water supply is on for a short period of time.
Mother and daughter are showing-off some of their embroidery skills to the camera. It is a sweat shop system where they get paid in piecemeal. It is the North Indians who brought the business Embroidery in Dharavi. But like every other occupation this too runs on casual labours. Traditionally Tamils do not do embroidery. But the women who cannot go out to work such as old women, pregnant women, young girls, women after delivery etc. do this work sitting at home. The payment is miniscule but even a drop makes a difference in this dire situation. It is the neighbourhood network that helps them in getting this kind of work. This kind of network will be another casualty of the homogenizing redevelopment scheme. In Dharavi the economics and the livelihood practices function through a complex yet informal network of contracts and sub contracts. Most of the businesses run in through multiple sites and sources of labour. A homogenized urban planning, as is proposed by the redevelopment scheme, will definitely kill this phenomena.
Prathyusha: Do both of you do this?
Lady in Pink: Yes, both mother and I.
Prathyusha: Did mother teach you?
Lady in Pink: No, it is just habit.
Prathyusha: So, you self-learnt…
Lady in Pink: Yes
Prathyusha: Do you do the stitching for home or also for outsiders?
Lady in Pink: no, it comes from outside. A company gives it to the neighbour, they give it to us. It's like 2-3 rupees.
Prathyusha: What's that 2-3 rupees count?
Lady in Pink: If you stitch a whole piece, it is 2 rupees, 3-4-5 rupees.
Prathyusha: For one piece?
Lady in Pink: For one piece.
Prathyusha: So much of work and so little pay?
Lady in Pink: What to do? If we ask they say, that's all they can give.
Prathyusha: What about the cloth, the Chamki? They buy them?
Lady in Pink: They buy everything for us.
Prathyusha: The thread for stitching, the needles…
Lady in Pink: Needles are ours, the yarn is theirs…
Prathyusha: So, just the work and they pay 2-3 rupees?
Lady in Pink: Yes.
Prathyusha: How did you get this job?
Lady in Pink: The company's people came and gave it to us.
Prathyusha: They came to see you or you looked for work?
Lady in Pink/Old lady 1: No, we went and got work.
Prathyusha: Oh, I see. How did you come to know of such a company?
Lady in Pink: We know.
Prathyusha: How? She (Old lady 1) worked there before?
Lady in Pink: Yes.(we) worked there before.
Prathyusha: So, all of you worked there?
Lady in Pink: Yes. All of us.
Prathyusha: So, are you at home after the birth of your child?
Lady in Pink: Yes.
Prathyusha: Is that your kid too?
Lady in Pink: No, that's the neighbour's daughter.
Prathyusha: You have only one child?
Lady in Pink: Yes.
Prathyusha: Boy or girl?
Lady in Pink: Boy.
Lady in Pink: Vasan.
Prathyusha: When was the baby born?
Prathyusha: 4 months.
Prathyusha: 4 months? New mom!
Lady in Pink: (laughs)
Prathyusha: So, did you just quit your job?
Lady in Pink: Yes.
Prathyusha: So, you have been doing this (embroidery) since then?
Lady in Pink: Yes. Since then, this is my work.
Prathyusha: Those hearts in the dress, you fit them in?
Old lady 1: This one? That's from the company… We need to collect water…
Lady in Pink: Switch on the fan.
Old lady 1: I need to switch on the fan ok. The boy is sweating.
Prathyusha: Yeah. Ok… is the kid like you or his father?
Lady in Pink: Father.
Prathyusha: Oh, father! And is he named after his grandfather?
Lady in Pink: no, it's God's name.
Prathyusha: Your family deity?
Old lady 1: Yes, yes!
Prathyusha: Did you take the child home?
Old lady 1: Not yet.
Prathyusha: Will you take him to the family deity for shaving his head?
Old lady 1: We will, yes.
Prathyusha: Oh! Your son has been naughty?
Lady in Pink: Yes!
Old lady 1: We need to collect water.
Lady in Pink: Yes, we need to collect water. It's almost 6.
Prathyusha: You collect water everyday?
Old lady 1: Yes.
Prathyusha: How many litres do you get?
Old lady 1: No litre count… just stops at 6 'o' clock.
Prathyusha: So, you collect how much ever you can?
Old lady 1: Yes.
Prathyusha: Suffices for a day?
Old lady 1: Yes.
Prathyusha: How many buckets do you collect?
Old lady 1/Lady in Pink: We fill the drum at the entrance.
Lady in Pink: (laughing) They are photographing… it's this side… see it.. (shows the LCD to mother)
Old lady 1: It's seen like this?
Lady in Pink: This is how you see video shooting.
Prathyusha: What's your city?
Old Lady 2: (smiles and shies away)
Prathyusha: Are you from Thirunelveli too?
Old Lady 2: Yes.
Prathyusha: How many years… sit, sit… how many years have you been here?
Old Lady 2: Our whole generation is here.
Prathyusha: Oh I see… who came here first… you?
Old Lady 2: Father-in-law, mother-in-law, then us.
Prathyusha: Prathyusha: You were born in Tirunelveli?
Old Lady 2: (nods)
Prathyusha: Then, you came here post-marriage?
Prathyusha: Did you work in the village?
Old Lady 2: Yes.
Prathyusha: What kind?
Old Lady 2: What work!
Old Lady 2: Cooked, ate.
Prathyusha: Household work?
Old Lady 2: (nods)
Prathyusha: Here too?
Old Lady 2: yes.
Prathyusha: Didn't you work in the fields.
Old Lady 2: We don't work in the fields.
Prathyusha: Do you find any difference between working in the village home and here? The city, the language?
Old Lady 2: What's the big difference? It's fully Tamil at our place, here's it's Hindi, Marathi, English.
Prathyusha: Do you speak all those languages?
Old Lady 2: I don't know them.
Prathyusha: Do you stay at home or go out?
Old Lady 2: Sometimes… I go out.
Old Lady 2: To relatives' homes, my childrens' homes.
Prathyusha: But, for sight-seeing?
Old Lady 2: No. Only during festivities / special occasions.
Prathyusha: Where do you go? What kind of place?
Old Lady 2: (smiles shyly) No kind of place. Mulund, Parla, Santa Cruz…
Prathyusha: When you were new here?
Old Lady 2: I saw everything when I was new here.
Prathyusha: Which ones? Mahalakshmi…
Old Lady 2: Mahalakshmi, Gate of India, gardens; here and there… that's all earlier.
Prathyusha: Any difference between the Mumbai of then and now?
Old Lady 2: Now, it's superb.
Prathyusha: You like it better now?
Old Lady 2: (smiles shyly and nods)
Prathyusha: How is that?
Old Lady 2: (smiles and turns away)
Prathyusha: Why are you shy? I am Tamil too, from Madras. Tell me more.
Old Lady 2: What is there to say, that's it.
Prathyusha: That's it?
Dinesh: (Chandrasekar's grandson) Tell them more, grandma.
Old Lady 2: When I was a newly-wed here, it was all very dirty. No houses, no roofs, just marsh/swamp (thaazhu). Then, gradually, we put up roofs, filled up the marsh land, then constructed everything, cement and all.
Prathyusha: How was the house you moved into first?
Old Lady 2: Earlier, there was only marsh (thaazh), it was dirty…now gradually.. Now there's this building coming up there opposite, all of us are going there.
Prathyusha: You still do household work? Do you do embroidery?
Old Lady 2: No, I don't do all that. We cook, we eat, that's it.
Dinesh and Old Lady 2: (inaudible)
The camera comes out in the bylane of the chawl and tries to make affinity with young boys hanging out, outside a Hair salon. Hand held shot of the narrow bylanes.
An elderly lady sitting outside at the doorstep of her house. The blue colour outer world wall of the house, the clothesline against it and the assorted people in the lane make the right ambience to interview a migrant woman in the metropolis.
She speaks with an endearing nonchalance towards her migration and with shy affection for Mumbai. She came to the city upon matrimony and thus her relationship with it is that of an adult one. Unlike the previous lot she has no regret for migrating to Mumbai. Finally a proud smile appears on her face as she about making the ground beneath her home with her own hands.
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA – a scheme of development constituted prior to the present DRP, Dharavi Redevelopment project, which is in charge of implementing the scheme of developing the entire area). is constructing new buildings inside Dharavi as part of their rehabilitation project. Unlike the people in Koliwada or Kumbharwada, the residents of Tamil chawl seem to be really looking forward to that as it would mean owning property of higher rate and a better standard of living which a "building" synonymously brings about. Our reluctant protagonist too enjoys the city life and is excited about the high rise buildings coming up in the surrounding areas. She obviously is hoping for a leap in the ladder of upward mobility.
Madras, Tamil Nadu
dharavi redevelopment project
Prathyusha: Tell us about your family, children, grandson…
Old Lady 2: Don't I have anything else to do?
Prathyusha: Tell me, grandma.
Old Lady 2: 4 sons. 2 daughter. This is my son's daughter. That's my second son's wife. My husband and sons work, that's all.
Prathyusha: Are you the same as in the village… here?
Old Lady 2: No difference. The same level.
Prathyusha: I don't mean the level. Do you do the same rites and rituals as in the village, or differently?
Old Lady 2: Hey, leave way… vehicles... There people worked in the fields…
Prathyusha: One minute, grandma, let the vehicle pass.
Old Lady 2: (to someone else) Hey, answer them… tell them how Dharavi was.
Prathyusha: You were doing so good, you tell me… fields, then?
Old Lady 2: There it was mainly agriculture. Here, they do handicraft at home, cook, eat, that's it.
Prathyusha: Then? Continue… tell me stories, grandmas do…
Old Lady 2: (laughs silently) I don't know any stories. Catch that Kanavumani (unclear)… she's a good storyteller.
Prathyusha: Are any of your friends here?
Old Lady 2: We have never had friends, then or now. No one.
Prathyusha: Anyone who came from your village with you?
Old Lady 2: (laughs) The only person who came with us is Kanavu…
Prathyusha: Only one person?
Old Lady 2: Yes. Only Kanavumani… You won't leave me!
Dinesh: Tamils tries so hard to come here, tell them, grandma.
Old Lady 2: You know Hindi, you tell them the whole history.
Prathyusha: I speak Tamil, right? Tell me.
Old Lady 2: That's all the news in Tamil. Earlier, Dharavi was a mess. Now, it's clean and beautiful, that's all.
Dinesh: Should it be so or grow?
Old Lady 2: It should develop very well. High-rate!
Old Lady 2: Like foreign countries, my country will also be like that.
Dinesh: Which country? America, Canada?
Old Lady 2: Kannada, Telugu.. whatever.
Old lady 1: (to Dinesh) Only you know.. you go to college…
Old Lady 2: (To Dinesh) You will know which country will develop in which manner…That's all I know… go to the next house…
Lady: Will they come where the huts got gutted?
Man: In Mahim…
Old Lady 2: I don't know…they will come everywhere…
The interviewer tries hard to induce a sense of lost in the context of migration. This is a popular notion about land and location related belonging. But the reluctant protagonist refuses to fall into the trap of cliché. Even the opportunity to work on piecemeal excites her. The monochromic life in the village fails to evoke any romantic nostalgia in her.
She gets up and joins her friend whom we had met in the earlier clip. Grandma's shyness disappears when her friend arrives, but she only becomes playful and doesn't divulge much. She wants her grandson to speak and we want her to speak. As a result, there is only banter and not much information gathered. Still she manages to communicate her preference for urban development. For her, the path can only go ahead and the situation can only improve.
police investigation van
Old Lady 2: If you get married… will take you away…
Old lady 1: Take us to your city.. even we need to see Madras…
Prathyusha: I will surely take you…
Old lady 1:/2 Come with your husband after you get married.
Prathyusha: You got married in Thirunelveli, right?
Old Lady 2: Yes.
Prathyusha: What changes did you perceive after marriage?
Old Lady 2: No change. Everything is all right.
Prathyusha: Everything is like this for you, same, similar…
Old lady 1: We brought up our kids with difficulty and are in debt now. What to do?
Old Lady 2: These foreigners are very smart. Us, there is nothing to do now.
Prathyusha: How has married life been?
Old Lady 2: Like it is… (walks away shyly)
Dinesh: There is another old lady here.
Young lady: She is hard of hearing.
Lady in Pink: Call that granny. Sister, that granny there will tell you everything clearly.
Prathyusha: When did you come to Dharavi?
Young lady: I am here since being a young kid.
Prathyusha: Born here?
Young lady: Yes.
Off-screen: Born, brought up and married here.
Young lady: Yes.
Prathyusha: Which area of Dharavi were you in before?
Young lady: Same area. Behind that. Came here after marriage.
Prathyusha: Where are your parents?
Young lady: Behind there. We are here.
Prathyusha: How is it in Dharavi?
Young lady: For me, Dharavi is better. I have been here since a kid and I like it best. If we go out, we don't… (fit), we come back.
Prathyusha: Your kids?
Young lady: Yeah. She's one.
Prathyusha: Don't you feel bad that she wasn't born in your village, hasn't seen your village?
Young lady: Nothing like that. When we go to our native place, it's just a month. We stay for a week, come back here. We feel nice only when we come here. We tell them we are going to "our city" and leave.
Prathyusha: So, this seems like your city?
Young lady: Yes, this seems like our city…
Prathyusha: Are you also from Tirunelveli?
Young lady: Yes, I am.
Prathyusha: Who's in Thirunelveli?
Young lady: My elder sister. We have a house, but we don't go to stay there… She tells good stories…
Old lady 1: She has been here since the beginning…
The banter continues as the grandmas decide to turn the tables on us and start pulling our leg. We are friends now but our grandma decides that she has had enough and literally runs off!
So we now choose to victimize an easier target, a younger lady, who is a true blue blood urbanist. She feels suffocated in the village and don't have any regret about her children not being attached to any socalled 'native land'. Meanwhile a kind of ceremony gets built up around the camera moving along the bylane and trying to catch interviewees. As some women run away from the camera others try to help us in catching people. In the afternoon the neighbourhood is full of women, children and teen ager boys. One such boy, Dinesh, has got himself attached to the crew.
Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu
Finally the insistent interviewer gets somebody who is somewhat willing to speak. But the rhetorical questions about missing the native place again draws no response. The conventional notion of a native place of plenty and people's attachment with that land is a feudal concept. It does not work for the people who make desperate migration in order to survive. For that class of people a city or a metropolis guarantees opportunity for livelihood and thus survival. Some argues that the lives of poor migrants into the city are full of indignity and they are forced into anonymity and loose their identities. This definition too does not work for the people in the chawl. To start with their identity back in villages was not of much glory and they were, in most cases, landless labourers. Also of lower caste, which must have made them vulnerable to caste atrocities. Secondly they live in Dharavi in the neighbourhood of the fellow Tamilians. So at least at the place of residence there is no danger of being anonymous. Moreover, these people migrate to the city stock and barrel. Since the entire family live in the city there is hardly anything remain in the village for them to have an attachment. So the insistence search for home sickness for the impoverished village seems out of place in this context.
Old lady 3: I got married in 1961, I have been here since 1963. What happened?
Old lady 1: They are asking when you came here, how you are… tell them…
Prathyusha: Are you also from Thirunelveli?
Old lady 3: Yes. Thirunelveli.
Prathyusha: Did you come here after marriage, or…
Old lady 3: I have been here after my marriage.
Prathyusha: Who came here after the marriage?
Old lady 3: Everyone.
Old lady 3: Everyone was here. They are no more.
Prathyusha: Oh. Why did you come here?
Old lady 3: To earn a living. There was no rain in our city, famine, no food… my in-laws struggled a lot with their children. So, we came here, earned and are surviving.
Prathyusha: Didn't you find it difficult, after so many years in Thirunelveli.. a new city, a new language?
Old lady 3: Hey, tea there… (to off-screen).. (laughs)…
What do we know? There was no livelihood in our place, my in-laws earned here, my sons-in-law also work here… we are here.
Prathyusha: What work did you do once you were here?
Old lady 3: Nothing. We did nothing.
Prathyusha: What did the men of the house do?
Old lady 3: They worked in a hotel first, then in a company.
Prathyusha: What company is that?
Old lady 3: That's Kamani (Kampany?) in Kurla.
Prathyusha: So, they worked in a hotel, then in a company..
Old lady 3: Yes…
Prathyusha: Did you ever work in the village… in the fields?
Old lady 3: I did not work in the fields, I stayed at home. But, after marriage, I worked in the fields. I did not work in the fields when I was at my father's place. We needed to take care of the children in emergency.
Prathyusha: How many children do you have?
Old lady 3: 6 children…
Prathyusha: All boys? And grandchildren?
Old lady 3: No, 2 girls and 4 boys.
Old lady 3: Lots. Two children each for the girls and one son is unmarried… (to off-screen) hey, they are asking me everything… can I tell them?
Prathyusha: I am also from there… Madras.. you tell me more, where have you married off the girls.. here?
Old lady 3: Within.
Prathyusha: Means in Mumbai?
Old lady 3: Means to my sister-in-law's two son's. My husband's sisters' sons. One to the elder sister's son, one to the younger sister's.
Prathyusha: What is the difference between Dharavi when you first came and now?
Old lady 3: Lots.
Old lady 3: Earlier there was no water. We used to go far to gather water. Now, water comes home. No bathrooms (toilets), we went far for that. Now, bathrooms (toilets) have been built. Now, there are so many comforts. Earlier, the bathroom was just behind the house. The stench used to reach us. Now, it's a main spot and is comfortable. Why should I grumble, I am telling you what there is.
Prathyusha: Do you have any thought that you could have been in your village, amongst your own people…
Old lady 3: How do you survive with your children there? So, we came here as a family.
Prathyusha: So, there is no sadness within?
Old lady 3: Sadness… that's there, yes. But, what can be done? We are struggling here for a living. If our son-in-law is here, and us there, what can we do? So, we are together. It is difficult to bring up the kids. Now, prices are high, salaries are more. Then, both were less.
Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu
kith and kin
stock and barrel
By now the three old women have made a gang and chatting away standing on the road. The life in the chawl flows on. Since the interviewer insists on one sign of loss due to migration they indulge her by acknowledging the loss of communal rites. Pongal is the harvest festival which automatically looses its meaning in the city. The outreach of television and telecommunication have revolutionized the lives of poor people in India. The sense of alienation can be countered a great deal with the aid of these two phenomena. It also indicates the death of the big cinema and its theatres for certain sections of the people. Cinema is now domesticated on television. Moreover, women are more attached to the winding domestic stories on soap operas than the films in the cinema halls. Over the weeks they develop an affinity with the characters of the soap operas and share the same with their peers. The theatre that she mentions is in King's Circle, a middle class Tamil neighbourhood and close to Dharavi. But when it comes to development they all are unambiguously for it. They are the community who posses least to loose, both in terms of space and livelihood. So they think that redevelopment can only make it better for them.
Prathyusha: Do you carry on any ritual or rite like your village here?
Old lady 3: Here and there too. We also go there…
Prathyusha: Any poojas from the village?
Old lady 3: What do we do? Special poojas? (to off-screen)
Old Lady 2: What is it?
Prathyusha: Rites and rituals from your village…
Old Lady 2: If there is an occasion, then we do.
Prathyusha: What has happened so far?
Old Lady 2: Tell them. The rites you did… (laughs)
Old lady 3: We did marry away our kids right?
Prathyusha: No, no, any temple processions or village rituals you do here?
Old lady 3: Nothing like that.
Prathyusha: All of you are from Thirunelveli, right..
Old lady 3: Yeah, but we all pray as a village in the temple… who does it here? The Ganapathy, the Ganesha… that is the festival.
Prathyusha: Don't you feel sad, that you could have done it, if you had been in your village?
Old lady 3: Yes, it is sad.
Old lady 3: Where do we celebrate Pongal like in our village? We do it in the house. Nothing like that. We do pongal inside the house here. There, in the village, we would put it on the road, break coconuts, fruits, pray, place the food to God and pray well. That is not done here; here's it inside the home.
Young lady: That's what she is asking, about festivities. Here there are Christians, Muslims, so nothing can be done. So, we do it inside the house. We do share, give sweet dishes, kheer to everyone. Nothing else is done.
Old lady 3: Are you from Madras.
Prathyusha: Yes, Madras.
Old lady 3: We have people in Madras…
Prathyusha: Have you come to Madras?
Old lady 3: Never. (to off-screen) Has she gone to Madras? To do the rituals for the child? (the puberty ceremony) We have married off our kids, done the rituals… which child has she done a ritual for? Nachyaar… she has married one daughter off.
Prathyusha: What do you think may happen in Dharavi after this? How will Dharavi develop?
Young lady: It should develop better than this.
Prathyusha: In what way?
Young lady: There should be no tension. It should all be jolly, as one family. We hope that there is no quarrel or fight.
Prathyusha: Don't you wish there was a big tower here, a cinema theatre?
Young lady: Why do we need all that? We don't go to the cinemas. Only if we go to our village, do we see about 2 films. The TV is always on. What else is there to see?
Old lady 3: We see all that is happening on TV… what else is there to see?
Young lady: We watch CDs.
Old lady 3: Whatever happens in the world, they show on TV. So, we see all that, then why go to see a film? We don't know what a cinema theatre is. We have gone earlier. After my wedding, I had gone to the theatre to see a film, with my in-laws.
Prathyusha: In Mumbai?
Old lady 3: Yes. Arora theatre, a theatre in Mahim…
Prathyusha: What film did you see?
Old lady 3: One was Nam Naadu (Our Nation), one was Paalum Pazhamum (Milk and fruits), then I don't remeber what I saw…We have seen only 2-3 films.
Prathyusha: So, you don't need big houses and towers here, you are happy with this?
Old lady 3: Happy as it is.
Prathyusha: Did you think Dharavi would grow so much?
Old lady 3: Why wouldn't it develop? It will. Earlier, we didn't think it would, but it has. But, we do wish for its betterment. If all of you try, that can happen.
Prathyusha: For development, towers and cinema theatres should come… you don't want them?
Old lady 3: They should come…If all of you try, they will. We should also get equal, right?
Prathyusha: Thank you, grandma.
Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu