Zinnia Pourdad

Zinnia Pourdad
Third Year, BA Geography
Hey! I'm a third year student at QMUL, studying BA Geography. Outside of my degree, I am a student ambassador for the university, take part in volunteering opportunities and enjoy sports. Although I love living in London, my passion is to travel the world! I hope my blogs will give you an insight in to my life at QMUL!

Made in Dharavi – Geographers head to Mumbai

We travelled to Mumbai, India, as part of our final year here at QMUL Geography – and here’s a bit more about the project we undertook exploring the economy that underpins one of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi.

For our project in India, my group conducted research on Dharavi’s leather industry and how leather is a local and global commodity. Dharavi is widely known as the largest slum in Mumbai, but less people know about the economic activity that occurs there!

 

Leather sheets in a factory

Leather sheets in one of the many factories in Dharavi

 

For the first part of our project, a tour guide took us around Dharavi, where we had the chance to go to various factories and see the leather production process in action. Most of the leather production process occurs in Dharavi, excluding tanning, due to the fact it is very polluting. The factories create the raw materials through several stages, and then the raw material is used to make leather products such as belts, wallets and bags.

 

Leather sheets

Leather sheets

 

After our tour of the slum, we were driven ten minutes down the road to Megha’s office, owner of Dharavi Market. Her company sells leather products, amongst many other items such as clothes, jewellery and clay pots, made by craftsmen living in Dharavi. The website aims to promote the work of people living and working in the slum and demonstrate that Dharavi is full of economic activity. She told us that ‘the whole point is to make Dharavi more visible, provide a platform and I want to make it more mainstream where regular people…who have this perception of the slum being this notorious area… I want to change that attitude and mind-set’. Furthermore, she explained that she also wants to improve Dharavi in many ways through her website – ”It’s not just going to be returns in terms of more business but also social good, so improve the lifestyle, the whole final aim would be to improve the living conditions [of Dharavi]”.

 

Dharavi Market (http://www.dharavimarket.com)

Dharavi Market (http://www.dharavimarket.com)

 

The people that make the products upload photos of their products to an Android app. After approving the items, Megha sells it online to international buyers. She explained that ‘it’s nice for them to know that people around the world are buying from them’. If you’re in need of some new products, her website is www.dharavimarket.com. You can choose from a wide range of commodities, while benefitting people living in Dharavi. They have a Facebook page too so make sure to check it out!

 

Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market

Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market and our team

Mumbai Unbound – geographers explore two worlds in India

When applying for university, it did not occur to me that I would be spending a week outside of England as part of my course, let alone spending a week in India! It didn’t even sink in until I checked in at Heathrow airport! My trip to Mumbai was a part of my third year module, Mumbai Unbound: Development Futures. The main purpose for the trip was to explore places and themes we had studied over the past few months, and to carry out a group project in the latter part of the week.

Everyday in Mumbai was very eventful and exciting! On our first day we were taken on a tour of the city and went to see famous attractions such as the Gateway of India and The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. There were many highlights of the trip, including the visit to the Gandhi Museum, participating in a group interview with the manager of a telecommunications company, Dhobi Ghat which is the largest open air laundromat, and Colaba Market (a fun place to get cheap souvenirs). We also visited Dharavi – known as ‘Asia’s biggest slum’- twice during our stay in Mumbai. Although we all had presumptions before entering the slum, we were all pleasantly surprised. While the residential areas were very claustrophobic, there was a nice atmosphere and a large community there. My group project was about the leather industry in Dharavi, which I will be writing an article on in the near future!

Gateway of India

Gateway of India

 

Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat

 

Most evenings, we went to different restaurants, exploring the different tastes of Indian (and Chinese!) cuisine. The food was very cheap in comparison to London. For example, on our first day, we went to an Indian restaurant and ordered bread, a curry with rice and a drink, and the bill was only 2,000 rupees (£2)!  All in all, the trip was definitely one of the most educational and enjoyable weeks and it is somewhere I will never forget. I am so fortunate that I was able to go on this trip and explore somewhere completely different. One of the main things I realised is that there are two extremes in Mumbai: there are derelict buildings and poverty, but it is also a city that is home Antilia – the second most expensive house in the world!

Apart from the loud noise (I don’t recall one moment when you couldn’t hear a car beeping) and the chaotic traffic, Mumbai was a real eye-opener and an experience I would recommend to anyone.

 

Antilia, the second most expensive house in the world!

Antilia, the second most expensive house in the world!

Two worlds: a slum with Mumbai's skyline in the background

Two worlds: a slum with Mumbai’s skyline in the background

 

 

 

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