National Geographic : 2007 May
(Continuedfrom page 87) listening to Mehta's short form of the plan (he has brought his PowerPoint presentation, but sunlight pre vents its deployment), the objections begin. It is outrageous that this was even being discussed, people say. "We have been making pots for 130 years," one man shouts. "This land is ours." Mehta is sympathetic to the Kumbhar posi tion. But there are a few "realities" they must understand. First, the assumption that the com munity owns the Kumbharwada grounds by virtue of the British Raj-era Vacant Land Ten ancy act is incorrect. Mehta says the Kumbhars' long-term lease ran out when the act was repealed in 1974. Also, there is the pollution issue. Every day the potters' brick kilns send huge black clouds into the air. It's gotten so bad that nearby Sion Hospital is complaining that the smoke is aggra vating patients' pulmonary ailments. The Kumbhars are vulnerable on these issues, Mehta says. Chief Minister Deshmukh would be within his rights to send the dreaded bulldozers rolling down 90 Feet Road. The Kumbhars should trust him, Mehta says. His very presence proves his sincerity. "People said if I came here, I should wear a hard hat. But you see me, bareheaded." At the very least, the Kumbhars should allow him to conduct a census of the area. This infor mation would help him fight for them, get them the best deal. With the return of the late monsoon rains, the session breaks up. Mehta gets back into his chauffeured car feeling upbeat. "A good meet ing," he says. The fact that the Kumbhars seemed to agree to the census was a good sign, Mehta says, driving off through puddles. Back at Kumbharwada, Tank is asked what he has learned from the meeting. Surrounded by perhaps 20 potters, Tank says, "We have learned that Mukesh Mehta's plan is of no use to us." Would they participate in the census? "We'll think about it," says Tank. In any event, there is no time to talk about it now. The meeting has taken almost two hours. With orders piling up, there is work to be done. MUKESH MEHTA'S PLAN is scheduled to be im plemented sometime this year, not that Dharavi 92 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * MAY 2007 A barefoot childfinds enchantment in a string is excessively fixated on it during holiday season, a time to, as a sign in the window of Jayanthian fireworks store on 90 Feet Road says, "enjoy the festivals with an atom bomb." Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, and much of Dharavi (the Hindus, anyway) are in the streets beating giant drums and blaring Bollywood-inflected songs on car-battery-powered speakers in celebration of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh, the roly poly elephant god, has special significance in Dharavi, being considered the deity of "remov ing obstacles."