A memorable experience every Mumbaikar needs!
Mumbai is the city of dreams is the popular saying we all know, but I experienced a new side of this city and I have realised that Mumbai is a city with a variety of bastis (informal settlements) as well. I am saying this because I participated in two ComplexCity city walks recently organised by YUVA. Both walks gave me many new insights. Sounds interesting, right? Indeed, it was a very refreshing and amazing experience.
One walk I attended was in the basti of Ambujwadi, Malad, and another was in the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) colony of Lallubhai Compound in Mankhurd. Both the settlements were different from one another, with different struggles of people who are living there. Through the walk, we directly heard from people living in these settlements. They freely shared their lives with us, their collective efforts for change, challenges, achievements and ongoing struggles. With the support of YUVA, people have made a lot of progress to achieve their rights, access to social welfare and legal entitlements.
In the first walk in Ambujwadi in Malad, focused on youth and their identity journeys, we (all the walk participants) interacted with a youth collective facilitated by YUVA, the Malwani Yuva Parishad. They explained the history of the basti, how it was developed and what challenges people are facing in the current times. They also performed a street play in which they role played everyday scenarios and highlighted the discrimination that girls often face. In the basti, we also saw the difference between notified versus non-notified structures, and the fear of forced evictions and its impact on young lives.
On the other hand, when we visited Lallubhai Compound, which is a rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) colony, we understood what life is like for families that are resettled there, and especially its impact on children. Child leaders of the Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (BASS) collective facilitated by YUVA led the walk and spoke about the resettlement impact from the point of view of education, play, transportation and more. Moreover, they shared how, although the settlement to this colony started from the early 2000s, basic facilities like a municipal school for children, street lights, play spaces were nowhere to be found in those years.
The child leaders also shared campaigns they have developed and implemented to drive change and build awareness among the people in the basti on different issues. For instance, they have led campaigns related to child safety and gender equality, among other issues. The children have also played an active role in making their demands heard and sharing those with local leaders, especially before elections to demand that these issues be worked on. They said, “Hum vote nahi kar sakte par apne demands rakh sakte hai or jo hamaari demands puri karne ka prayas karte hai, hum apne parents ko unko vote deneke liye kahenge.” (Although we can’t vote, we can place our demands to leaders and whoever fulfills them we will ask our parents to vote for them). Personally when I heard this statement from the children, I felt very thrilled. I thought to myself that if children get safe and enabling spaces, they can really be changemakers in society!
Throughout the walk, people were sharing their journeys in a structured way. They had confidence and courage to boldly share their struggles with the audience. I got very inspired by being in this walk. It gave us new perspectives about the city and its bastis.
I want to thank YUVA for working in these spaces and creating bright leaders for the future of Mumbai and India. I also want to appeal to the readers that you must attend this city walk and see the courage of these people. It is an experience which you as a Mumbaikar should not miss. So be ready for the next city walk and hope you will share your experiences and insights too!
Nupur Joshi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Nupur attended the ComplexCity city walks on 9 and 10 April 2022.