Sangita Bhimrao Holkar
Sangita Bhimrao Holkar is 22 years old and was born in Bainganwadi. She is married and now lives in the countryside with her parents-in-law. Sangita came back to Bainganwadi for the wedding of her brother. “Now I am married I don’t want to do anything. I don’t like the village, I was born here, I don’t know anything about village life. But I feel compelled to stay there.”
Rajkumar Durgaprasad Kanojia
Rajkumar Durgaprasad Kanojia is 35 years old and was born in the Basti District in Uttar Pradesh. He moved to Bainganwadi because there was no work in the countryside. At first he lived in a house in Mumbai, but because of work it was easier to rent a place in Bainganwadi. Rajkumar dreams about a better future for his children, and hopes they will become something. He wants them to study for a brighter future and based on their mental capabilities hopes they will excel on their own. “There is some regret for not listening to my parents’ advice – if I had studied a bit more things would have been different”.
Amina Khatun is 40 years old and was born in Basti District in Utter Pradesh. Because of hardships in the village she followed her husband to Bainganwadi. Amina has six children, three girls and three boys. She only knows that she is 40 because her father made a note in a diary, as there is no birth certificate. Two of her daughters stopped studying after the 10th class. “My children have dreams but I am scared that they will not be able to fulfil them. One of my daughters is going to a stitching class – she is studying hard and wants to become a doctor.”
Ansari Alimuddin is 46 years old and moved 30 years ago from Uttar Pradesh to Bainganwadi to start a garment business. He followed some relatives who were already in this area. “At this point I don’t understand the situation. For the past three or four years the business is not running well. Previously I had 45 workers, now I just have three left.”
Gayatri Gopal Gupta
Gayatri Gopal Gupta is 21 years old and was born in Mumbai. Her mother passed away when she was five years old and her father raised her. With the help of her brother, Gayatri studied until 12th grade. Her sister is married, but her two brothers are not. What makes it impossible for her to find a husband is that there has to be a woman in every household.
Gulfisha Ali Ahmad Qureshi (with her brother)
Gulfisha Ali Ahmad Qureshi is 22 years old. She finished 12th grade and now has one child. Her father was professor of Arabic language. “Growing up here was all good. I had freedom, and I used to teach in the school. I was recently married and things have changed. I can’t do much now, but I want to give my child the best future and help him to get qualified.” Even though her husband earns more than 10.000 Rupees plus incentives, and Gulfisha is also highly educated, they stay in the village to be with the family.
Mohammad Yusuf Shah
Mohammad Yusuf Shah is around 35 years old. His parents used to tell him his age and from that point he began counting. Like many others, they moved to Bainganwadi because of work, but the place never really felt like home. “We have four children and there are guys who do drugs in the public toilets. They won’t harm us, but it is wrong and sad that the youth of the country is falling prey to addiction. It is difficult for my girls though.” The only good thing here for Mohammad is his family and his wife, because she is responsible and keeps the family together.
Noorjaha Rehman Shaikh
Noorjaha Rehman Shaikh is between 60 and 65 years old. She moved to Bainganwadi with her family around 25 years ago as the mills in Karnataka got shut down. There was no other option than urbanisation. “We are eight people staying in this house. Two create an income, and one is a drunkard. If he gets work things will improve. “
Mathurabai Sadashiv Nikam
Mathurabai Sadashiv Nikam is 57 years old. Her age is written on the voting card. It is an approximation. She does not have a birth certificate and does not see any sense in having one – “What will we get by remembering the past?” Her daughter is Amina Khatun and according to Mathurabai she is 35 years old and was only 15 days old when she came to Bainganwadi. Years have passed and Mathurabai has lost the capacity to work. “There are older ladies than me but who are still fit and fine… I just keep thinking about my daughters. What will happen in their lives. I don’t feel anything about the future, I just feel… that I should go to heaven soon. That’s what I want. Nothing else.”
Pushpa Pradip Kumar Gupta
Pushpa Pradip Kumar Gupta is 42 years old. Due to the lack of work in the village she and her husband moved here, where he opened a scrap shop. Pushpa has seven children and her husband is the only one who earns an income. “With time, things fall into perspective. Previously we did not have a good house, but now things are fine. There are always some tensions, as we have only one person who is earning, while the rest eat.” The family was keen on having a boy and ended up with six daughters and a son. It is important, as girls just get married if they have a brother. “They say that after the death of the parents, the relationship will end, but if we have a brother-in-law there will be some continuity in the family.”
The Right to be Remembered
The Right to be Remembered is a photographic essay about legacy, as well as an investigation into contemporary living in a slum in Mumbai. Although there are many photographs of people from India, there are few where details of their identities, names and lives are known.
Urbanisation in India is a phenomenon just like it is in every western country. Many of the people I photographed have moved to the city because there was simply no work in the countryside where they grew up. In addition the photographs, in combination with the captions, give an insight into how it is to live as a woman in Indian society.
Living on a few square meters is not reserved for people living in the centre of London, New York or Tokyo – it is also a reality of life for larger families living in the slums of Mumbai.
Daily life in the slum of Bainganwadi has many similarities to life in megacities. One is that there is simply no time for people to maintain relationships with the people around them; drug abuse, gangs and daily problems with electricity and garbage are just a few more.
These people all have a story worth telling and more importantly, a story to remember for the future. They use their past to explain to their children what they have to change to create a brighter future.
Special thanks to the NGO Lok Seva Sangam, they gave me access to the slums and they are also a big help for the people who are living there.