As you make your way through the narrow alleys of Kumbharwada in Dharavi, the first thing that welcomes you is the sight of diyas, pots, flower-vases and other sundry pottery items drying in the sultry October heat.
There is a certain order to the chaos of these narrow alleys. The houses in Kumbharwada are laid according to the demands of the profession. Clusters of multi-storied concrete houses with tarpaulin or metallic roofs suddenly open up to reveal a roofless open space with a baking kiln on one side, an area dedicated for storing the pots and a hole in the ground for storing the clay.
Old-timers working on the wheel are an epitome of zen – carefully shaping the clay with just the right pressure between the fingers to have uniformly thick edges and then tying a noose with sewing thread to take the complete diya off the wheel. “70-80% of diyas sold in Mumbai during Diwali are made here,” says Kantibhai, one of the many potters. “We sell diyas to other parts of India and export them as well,” he adds.
The potters’ colony in Dharavi is one of the major cottage-industries which, along with recycling units, leather tanneries, tailoring units and so on, generates export goods worth $600 million. Do you still want to reinforce the cliche that Dharavi is “Asia’s largest slum”? Think again.
Text & Photos By Nimish Sawant