Day 7 – Trip to India – Making a living in the city
We started our day in an expensive hotel and ended our day with a tour through the industrial production centers of Dharavi.
We joined our guide and drove past the same architectural sights we viewed the prior day. We first stopped at C.S.T. the final terminal from the train. We wanted to see the activity of people getting around Mumbai by train. Our guide takes the train everyday and said overall it’s a pleasant experience. However when we spoke to friends who could afford private transport they told us they have ridden the trains but tend not to. It sounds a little bit better for woman who have their own cars on each train. The terminal is busy.
We next went to see the activity of the acclaimed dalawallahs that deliver mumbaikers home prepared hot lunches. The management of the complex transfers is impressive, but the scale of the number of tiffiins (steel lunch containers) underwhelmed me. I had imagined towers six feet high of tiffiins building as deliveries came off the train and were stacked for office delivery. Instead only one layer of tiffiins is assembled and this is done on a spread out manner.
Here is how the service works. You set up a recurring dalawallah service. Everyday thereafter a man will arrive at an appointed time to pick up the tiffin that you or your spouse has prepared or packed that morning. Alternatively, you can hire a caterer who prepared the meal. These collection appointments happen in the morning throughout the city and its distant suburbs. Your tiffin has a unique code that each person on the logistics chain will recognize by mode and know how to route to the next leg of the journey. Let’s say you do live in the suburbs, 90 minutes away from your office. The person who received your tiffin will hang it on his handlebars, along with the other 60 he is collecting that morning. He will bike to your local train station and hand off his load to a man who will accompany it to the train stop closest to your office. Your tiffin will arrive at the station between 11:30 and 11:45. The dalawallah will take his lot of 60 tiffiins, including yours and drop each tiffin in an appointed spot destined for a different destination. Your tiffin will be removed from the lot that left your neighborhood and be gathered with a new lot that is destined for the area around your office. Between 11:45 and 12:00 pm the porters completing the final leg of the journey will collect the newly assembled lots and take their 60 tiffiins to their individual destinations. Your tiffin will arrive before the traditional lunch hour of 1pm. You will be able to enjoy the fresh meal prepared that morning and the steel case (and optional insulation package lunch sack) we’ll have kept your lunch hot/warm and ready to enjoy. An Indian would not think of “heating up” a dish in microwave.
That afternoon, your tiffin will take the reverse route home and be ready to be washed and cleaned (by you) for the next day’s use.
We took a driving tour after witnessing this logistics miracle which has received Six Sigma certification meaning they make less than 1 error in 1 million transactions.
Our driving tour went to and through Malabar Hills. On the way we past the beach. I asked my guide it we were passing Chowpatty Beach. She lifed amusedly but excused herself and would not tell me why she laughed. It was not until the next day that my Indian friend explained that chowpatty is the Hindi word for beach.
We stopped at the hanging gardens atop Malabar Hill. I had forgotten that the garden is called hanging because the land itself is cantilevered and hangs to cover a local water reservoir. I imagined instead a garden of tropical mosses, ferns, and bromeliads. It is instead flowers and shrubbery well laid out. There are fantastic views of the city on the opposite side of the street.
The Jain temple I visited 10 years ago has closed to non-Jains as some tourists had rudely defiled the temple by wearing leather and not removing their shoes. It was too much for the Jain community to bear and they subsequently shut the temple to all non-worshippers.
We also saw the world’s most expensive $2 Billion private home
We stopped to observe the cities washermen or dhobis at dhobi ghat. Here in over 800 small concrete tins men wash and scrub the coarsest and finest fabrics for rupees.
We next went to the industrial quarter of the Dhatavi, largest slum in Mumbai. I was apprehensive of walking around the area before arriving. Even though we were going with a guide I expected my presence as a relatively affluent westerner would be an affront or at least a nuisance. This I was surprised wen our presence did not even raise one eyebrow. The tour goes through narrow lanes of what is essentially a factory of 1000 production centers that generate $1 billion a year for businesses with workman doing unskilled and skilled jobs in unregulated conditions.
It felt like a microeconomics course. We saw production (mostly through recycled materials) of plastic and steel for industrial purposes, textiles, furniture , and cardboard boxes I the small section we toured for 2 hours. Our guide has been visiting and leadingn tours through this working portion of the slum. It would be imposing to walk through the residential areas. That makes sense, it’s one thing to have visitors in a public space, but completely different to allow visitors into your private life. As a measure of the lack of regulation, no one prevents anyone from entering what in the U.S. would be considered to be a factory. This is a very cottage industry scale of production. There are not many machines and those there are are built and maintained on premises.
We had the juxtaposition of leaving Dharavi and returning to the most expensive hotel in the city to nap beside a giant pool in a city where every square foot of space is precious. We had dinner plans with a classmate from Duke who is Indian but only recently moved to Mumbai. He works as controller or financial executive at an investment bank, yet another juxtaposition between the many jobs I learned about during the day.
We refreshed put on dinner clothes and fancy shoes to meet up with my classmate at Trishna for dinner. We walked to the restaurant and on our way stopped at Cafe Mondegsr for a beer.
Trishna is one of the best restaurants in Mumbai. It is a seafood restaurant and prepares dishes inspired by all the different regions of India. We were able to discuss the current politics, economy and philosophies and goals of 20 year olds entering the workforce over dinner. The conversation and dinner were excellent. We enjoyed deep fried chili prawns, a pomfret prepare in a Hyderabadi style as appetizers and a Konkan shrimp preparation in chili sauce and a local crab in a bitter and garlic sauce. Feasted as sea kings.
We strolled home and plumply fell asleep.