As I stood outside looking at the gothic building I was approached by a young guy who asked if I spoke English. He said he learned some of the language and would like to practice so we had a short conversation. Chandu was very curious about my trip and I offered to buy him a coffee and he said he would go with me but could not accept the offer so he simply had water. He told me that he lived in an apartment with his mother and sister and that his father died when he was 15 years old. He lost his job 3 months ago but just finished 4 days of training for a new job in a call center that starts on Monday. His job will be to call people in Mumbai and sell them credit cards. He gets a salary and a bonus upon reaching a sales quota of 30 credit cards per month. He was happy to have the job and went through a sales pitch for me. I told him it was very good and that I was ready to sign up but can't since I am not Indian. I repeatedly asked if he would like something to eat or drink but he refused. I went to pay for my bill and pulled out a US dollar in error and he asked about it. He had never seen a US dollar bill so I gave it to him and his eyes lit up. He said he would show all his friends and frame it.
I asked him what he was doing the rest of the day and he said nothing so I suggested he walk with me and show me some of the sights and he was very excited and he kept talking and asking for the correct words. His English is quite good and he can understand everything I say if I talk slowly. He asked if there was somewhere I would like to go and I said I would like to see the famous slum of Dharavi. He said "are you sure" and after confirming yes he said it is a good thing he is there as it is not wise for a foreigner to go on his own, even in broad daylight.
We boarded a local train that was almost empty as we were going north and it was midday. On the way back I would ride the same train and was squeezed in like a sardine. The trains have hundreds of overhead handles and the side doors remain open with people hanging outside as the train moves. The safety standards are a little more relaxed here.
We got off the train in a short while to see Dhobi Ghat or the place where clothes are washed. This area is Mumbai's oldest and biggest human-powered washing machine where every day hundreds of people beat the dirt out of thousands of kilograms of laundry in over 1,000 open air troughs. Hotels, restaurants and households send their clothes here to be cleaned in what looked like pretty dirty water. You can watch the spectacle from a bridge and see men and women beating the clothes against the cement tubs. It is a strange sight but seems to fit in perfectly here.
We boarded the next train and in a short while entered one of the world's largest slums. There are about 1 million people in the small neighbourhood of less than 1 square mile. There are plans to redevelop the area and there are small businesses mostly involved in pottery, textiles and recycling but it can be best described as a disaster. As of 2006, there was 1 toilet for every 1,500 residents with most people using the local river. I won't be filling my water bottle here.
Dharavi Slum was featured prominently in the movie Slumdog Millionaire with many of the child actors from this neighbourhood. Chandu led me off the main road and we walked along a large water pipeline and right beside a long series of shelters used to house families. There were 2 piplelines with shelters on either side with a space between used as a garbage dump. I kept hoping I wouldn't fall in as there didn't appear to be an easy way out. I wondered out loud how many rats live down there and Chandu said thousands.