The largest slum in Mumbai

Slum in MumbaiOur senses were overwhelmed at every level. Multiple smells filled the air – air we could almost taste. All around were noises; people shouting and noises from machinery, and animals. We were jostled along the narrow streets – no place for the agrophobic. We could feel the mud squelch under our feet. Poverty and degradation dominated. We were being shown around the largest slum in Bombay (Now known as Mumbai).

And yet we were told that people like bank managers lived here. Decent property is so expensive in Mumbai that many prefer to live here, rather than commute from distant suburbs into the city centre. First perceptions are deceiving. It is not all poverty and deprivation. The slums are vibrant places. There is a sense of community that is missing among the modern apartment blocks.

Pastor Joseph

Pastor and Florence Joseph
Pastor and Florence Joseph in 1988

Our main contact in 1988 in Mumbai was Pastor Joseph of the New Life Fellowship now known as the New Life Movement International

Pastor Joseph is a very humble man, and gave us hospitality in his modest apartment. I remember how he always had problems with his water supplies. This could have been connected very quickly to the supply up in the roof, but he refused to pay a bribe, and so had to wait. Christine remembers him saying that he probably would not survive his 50’s but I see from their website that he has recently celebrated his 80th birthday!

As well as a church, Pastor Joseph was responsible for a school in the slum. We visited the slum school and also a work among woman who were suffering the effects of leprosy. Kingscare was able to support their humanitarian projects for a number of years.

One girls story

We visited some homes in the slum. Christine writes:

We were shown into a small shack. A mother lived there with her two daughters, one of them was an attractive 12-year-old girl and the other, an invalid, was lying on a bed. The mother could not go to work because she had to look after her sick daughter. Because her mother was poor, the other daughter was unable to go to school, as there would be no money for uniform, text-books etc.

I looked into the face of the young girl, and could see that she was intelligent, and yet, was not able to study, learn, and get a reasonable job.

This touched me deeply! Until then, I did not have the vision that George had for helping the poor people of India. To me, the help that we could give, seemed like a drop in the great big ocean of poverty!

However, when I realised that we could help to finance some tuition classes for just this one girl, that would totally revolutionise her family. If she did well, then she could get a good job, she could be fulfilled in her studies, and in her work, and also help support her mother and sister!

A small amount of money (in our terms) could be totally life changing for one special family!

Some photographs

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

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