Dharavi Kumbharwada: Matrilineal Artisanry
Director: Richa Hushing; Cinematographer: Tapan Vyas
Duration: 00:14:12; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 27.167; Saturation: 0.168; Lightness: 0.341; Volume: 0.112; Cuts per Minute: 4.437; Words per Minute: 32.183
Summary: Dharavi is a slum popularly termed as the Asia’s biggest slum. Known to be one of the densest and most layered human settlements in the world, the origin of Dharavi can be traced back to early 19th Century, at the height of the industrialization in the region. Dharavi was originally located at the northern periphery of Bombay, but with boundaries of this ever-growing city constantly extending on all sides it has come to occupy prime location today. Today, according to official records, Dharavi is marked as an area spread over 175 hectares, where as many as 18,000 people crowd into a single acre. But considering the large presence of unofficial/illegal migration influx, the real number of people living in Dharavi is likely to be much more. Home to approximately one million people, Dharavi populace includes diverse language groups, religious communities and economic units. Most of the citizens of Dharavi are urban artisans, functioning out of the outer space of their one-storey shanties. This seamlessness in working and living space, over the decades, has resulted in high number of female wage earners. Most of these small enterprises run by contributions from all family members of any age.
Kumbharwada (Potters’ colony) is one of the most prosperous, organized and well known areas of Dharavi. They supply earthen pots for daily uses, festivities and rituals, decoration and also for film shootings. Following is the documentation of one evening in the life of 19 year old Kirit Rathod and his family including two sisters, one brother, mother and grandmother. All members of the family work in the family occupation of pottery. This event was shot two days before Navratri. Navratri is a 9 –day long festival to celebrate fertility. It is mainly observed among the Gujarati community. The Kumbhars (potters) in Dharavi are also mostly Gujarati. In Navaratri pots are used as symbol of womb/fertility and worshipped. So this is the busiest season for the local potters. The following story is about the frenzy of last minute back log clearance, dispatches to the markets, selling from the domestic outlet etc.
What is remarkable in this house and several such houses in Kumbharwada, is its structure. This house is in Wadi 2. There are 4 wadis in Kumbharwada. Wadi 2 is on the main 90 feet road with the shops at the front door of the houses opening on the road. The houses are linear with rooms one behind the other. In the rear of the houses is a common open space where the bhattis (kiln) are situated. Every few families share one Bhatti. The houses in wadi 2 are not as sprawling as Wadi 1 and the construction is somewhat more contemporary. Unlike the Wadi 1 houses these constructions do not facilitate as much roof top drying. They use the ground space behind the bhattis for sun drying. Though with new residents occupying houses and through various stages of repairs and renovations these specific characteristics of each Wadi have edged out to a great extent.
From preparing the clay to production of the pots – making, baking, colouring- to storage to display to sell, everything happens under one roof. The small houses are erected with multiple layers with ladders, ventilators, lofts, scaffold and bunks in order to facilitate the work space as well as fulfil the requirements of a living quarter. Such imaginative and economic use of space should be treated as an example in architectural planning, instead of attempting to break them for the sake of ‘development’. Shot be Tapan Vyas.
90 feet road
Indoor. Long shot of a narrow room where a family of mother, daughter and two sons work on putting decorating zari and beads on the red colour earthen pots. Each of these pots sell for Rs.200/-. Preparation for the grand business on occasion of Navratri is on. In the foreground is a tattered bed and in the background a new refrigerator and a washing machine. Close shot of working hands. The boys fool around and the women work judiciously among the scattered zari ribbons, fake flowers and sequins. Wide shot of the room. The room of an artisan family in an urban slum. Framed images of religious icons, oleographs, old calendars and big wall clock. The modern kitsch of reproductions and the old fashioned artisanship co-exist happily under one roof. A phone call comes.
Look at this,
Mom, we don't need this.
How does it look,
Didi, has done it.
On the phone,
Younger son: It is me, Dhaval
Other side: Give it to mom,
YS: She is busy.
OlderSon: Uncle, Mom's busy. Oh ok. I'll give it to her. Mom, it is for you.
Mom: Oh it's a call for Me. Hello…(illegible….)
90 feet road
kumbharwada wadi 3
Take it out .
Sister: Bhai, bhai, (to younger bro) where is he?
Younger Bro: He is out.
Sister: Call him. (to elder bro) How many are they? 8.
EB: 7. Oh they are 8. Outside there are 4, 8 here.
Mom: How many had we got?
EB: I had got 20 and he gave 15.
Mom: So where are the others.
EB: You count them…
Sister: Get the table here, we'll check. Get the table…. Divya, take them out.
EB: It's open, open it.
Sister: My hand is paining.
EB: Ok, get down, I'll take them, get down. Mom, it's that taxi.
Mom: Which one?
EB: The one which has a broken handle.
Mom: You come outside.
Voice from the top(Divya): Take it quickly.
TC 04.57 Sister: Take this.
TC 05.16 Sister: That boy is just standing there. Dhaval, just put them down. Do you know my elder told 250 rupees for a big garba.
Sister: It was with cutting work. Then he said give 200 rupees and he kept telling me to sell it.
Dhaval: Yesterday a garba was for 500 and he kept asking for 1001 rupees.
Sister: We lost a big garba of 300 rupees, it was with cutting work.
Dhaval: It was this size, small.
Top angle wide shot. The woman gives instruction to the daughter about the work. Details of some decorated pots – in some written 'Jai Bhavani' in Gujrati. A regular working day involving the whole family. Operation at the storage vault. The younger daughter is inside the vault. She must have entered it through the terrace. The overhead door opens and the stock of finished pots are carried down in relay system. The younger daughter in the loft to the older daughter on the stool to the mother on the ground.Amazing precision in use of space. Though the brothers are not to be seen anywhere.
Another voice: Where is Divya?
Sister: She is helping to take out the garbas. The taxi driver has come.
TC 6.47:(some body is singing a navratri song in the background)
Long shot of the woman carrying the merchandise which are taken down from the vault to the shop in the outer side of the house. The living room double up for the workshop and upper head storage; and the outer section becomes a shop extending to the road. The shop is choke-a-block with merchandise – pots, diyas, cooking vessels, prayer accessories, water storage and curios. The elder daughter hums a song inside the house away from the camera. Though the family was extremely accommodative the presence of the camera of the had definitely inhibitated the girls. Once free of its gaze she hums a garba tune. The woman keeps some Navratri pots on display on adjoining road. Next to that is seated her mother-in-law, the matriarch of the family, cleaning vegetables. Long shot from the road, with the mother-in-law in foreground surrounded by the merchandise and the tiny shop in the background. Another shop next to it is visible. The old woman sits in a grand posture delicately cleaning some vegetables and expressing her discomfort to the presence of the camera.
Mid shot of the old woman sitting on a chair and the daughter-in-law standing next to her. The old woman begins to feel self conscious under the gaze of the camera. In the background we can see other potter's shops and some neighbourhood brawls. Finally she obliges us by speaking. She even speaks in Hindi and not in Gujarati. So maybe those glares were of suspicions and not of hostility. However she cannot afford to let us waste her family's time at the peak of the business hour.The daughter-in-law and the grand daughter watch with apprehension. We have become their people and they do not want anything to go wrong between us and the matriarch.
Old woman - born in Mumbai and to die in Mumbai. I was born here and also want to die here… Q - and since when this work….- since my childhood… give her a big pot… They are sitting on our head now…Old woman: Soni is also mad, she should not have given the garba to her.Mother: It should given one by one.Old woman: Take her(interviewer) away from here now. It is irritating me.Younger daughter: We should have called Salman, he would have been here by now.Q: (ref the old woman) She is mad at us? Are you angry with us?
A middle class woman come in as a buyer. She is extremely conscious of the camera and tries to pose for it. Her accented middle class behaviour seemed odd to the situation. She looks at diyas (oil lamps). The potter woman attends to the customers. The middle class woman appears so interested to be in camera that we put a cordless mike on her. She self consciously does her urbane dame bit in front of the camera and finally speaks to us in English to proves his class. The pot she is holding costs. Rs.500/-.
-is there any which we can paint ourselves? …
How much does this cost? The small one?
Youngest boy – Forty
Customer- And the big one? Fifty?
Old woman – sixty five rupees… Sixty five…
Customer- Sixty five? Ok. If I want to make a set of three? Of different sizes…
Old woman: It's 260 rupees.
Customer -I am the principal of Lokhandwala college and school…
I have just come to see all these…
A wide shot of the road. A waiting taxi. The family load the earthen pots in the boot. The delicate pots look extremely vulnerable in the boot of a rickety taxi and the impending ride on the bumpy roads of Mumbai. But the family handles it with practiced ease and confidence. More and more pots get collected on the road. A big delivery is to be made at a shopping mall in Goregaon. Shops in Goregaon, Borivali, Ghatkopar, Kalvadevi, Girgaon etc. are major clientele in this season. This is the culmination of all the hard works for the whole family. The back seat of the taxi too get filled up by the pots. The mother and the younger daughter squeeze into the front seat. They are going for the dispatch. The female traders going for the final stage of transaction. There is an excitement in the air – excitement for the impending festival, for the monetary return and also for the ride. The girl waves at the camera. We have become friends – of the young female artisan. But the question that looms large is how would the 'redevelopment' model replace this livelihood related living quarters?
Older son: Give the small one, that one, that one.
Voice in the background: Arrey, this small garbas.