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Beloit College

Isamu Pant'11 (international relations, sociology)

"Life in Dharavi: Investigating Push and Pull Factors in a Slum in Mumbai"

Location: India

Isamu’s interest in the slum city of Dharavi in the heart of Mumbai was first sparked in an Economics class when a student mentioned that not all people want to leave the slum, that some stay for tax benefits. He wondered whether there were other reasons why a person might not want to leave supposed “squalor” for greener pastures. He then visited Dharavi in India to answer these questions by interviewing residents and NGO workers. His experience and the answers to his questions surprised him: “I was amazed by the life and the energy that was present there. I had pictured a destitute area with beggars and very little life. Instead, what I found was a lot of small scale industries like plastic recyclers, shoe making, bakeries etc. People seemed energetic even though they lived in what most would call deplorable living conditions.” Isamu came to this conclusion: “Even though I am sure they have a lot of problems to deal with, to me, their attitude signified how a person’s happiness doesn’t rely solely on material goods.”