Tuesday, October 30, 2012

India 27: Mumbai III--Shabana Gets A Loan

 The reason I was in Mumbai last week was to capture a little story for the ACCION web site.  I would follow a single, typical loan from an applicant’s first interest until the money gets put to work.  Using a simple but effective video camera called the Flip, I had two days to shoot it, which meant faking approval of the first, application phase.

 The loan would be issued by Swadhaar, a new and relatively small institution loaning to the urban poor in two states, the largest number being in Mumbai.  It has 85,000 loans outstanding, tiny by Indian standards (I introduced you to its CEO in Three Remarkable Women last week).  The loan would be processed and approved at the organization where I work, Vindhya, in Bangalore.  ACCION has invested in both. 

The first day we saw several groups of women sign their loans and receive 16,000 rupees or about $320 and found a woman who would let us tell her story and come to her home, Shabana Shaikh.  She was very serious about the whole thing.  However going to her house was a kick, a Slumdog Millionaire tour, winding through narrow passageways, looking in on people’s lives and meeting lots of kids and lots of goats.   
My camera corrects for red eye but not for blue-eyed goats. This goat is behind the little girl on the left in the middle picture and the kids wanted to play with it instead of going to school. 
Shabana lives in New Andhari which is classified as “a slum” but then this is a city alternatively called Slumbai.  With at least 6.5 million people living in “a slum,” how derogatory can the word be?  Not much, was the sense I got.

This picture is taken from the back wall of Shabana's dwelling; this is all there is to it.  She has at least three children, two on the floor, and two neighbors are visiting.

New Andhari is like places all over the world where people have invaded unoccupied land, then defended and hardened it into permanent residences.  Space gets apportioned, concrete laid, tar paper walls turn into block, pirated electricity gets on the grid and schools or basic clinics may eventually be added.  Compared to Annawadi, where Manju lives, it looks like Levittown. There is a school where the kids wear uniforms, meaning it is private receiving some government support, true of 27 percent of elementary schools.   If you look closely above in the middle of the three pictures above you can see a boy in a tie and short pants for school, looking as if off to a school in the English countryside.  

The home is maybe 10' by 15''.  In the corner to the camera's right is a bench which serves as the bed; you see the kitchen with pots and utensils gleaming on the walli. There is an old TV and behind me a murky aquarium.   If there is any ventilation it is slight and hidden by the doorway.  Outside her door is a nearly vertical ladder leading to the dwelling that has been built on her roof. 

Mumbai is the third most expensive city in the world, following Tokyo and London, more expensive than New York, and this is reflected in the value and cost of places like this one. 

The video version of this story will be edited by ACCION and may eventually appear here. 



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