Dharavi and cash from trash

From ancient lakes in the Thar desert to Odisha's tribal artisans and Dharavi's young coders, this week's newsletter will take you through the many colours of India

Rashmi Pratap
11 Jun 2023
New Update
anita punarnawa

Anita Oran, a tribal artisan from Odisha. Pic: Subrata Pandey

Dear Reader,

Most of us are familiar with Mumbai’s slums, chawls and the underworld, thanks to Bollywood. Salaam Bombay! (1988), Slumdog Millionaire (2009) and many movies before and after them have shown us the darker side of the city of dreams. And Dharavi, Asia’s largest urban slum, is one of them.

Dharavi is where 2.8 lakh people live in every square km of area. For comparison, the whole population of Sonipat in Haryana or Jalna in Maharashtra is around 2.8 lakh!

To survive, study and get a good job remains the dream of lakhs of children living in Dharavi. One person helping them realise their dreams and potential is US-returned filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan. He visited Dharavi in 2010 for shooting a short film, Dharavi Diary, and some young kids took him around the area.

Nawneet received accolades for his work. But he had developed a bond with the children while shooting the film, training some of them in filmmaking. So in 2014, Nawneet returned to Dharavi to work for the betterment of slum kids and set up his NGO named after the film, writes my colleague Bilal.

In the last nine years, Nawneet has changed the lives of 675 youngsters in Dharavi by teaching them coding, computers, filmmaking and other skills, besides helping fund their education. These children are now making applications, and speaking at global forums and many of them are mentors to other youngsters in Dharavi. Some have also managed to buy a house and moved out of the slum. Kudos to Nawneet!

Last week, my colleague Urvashi wrote about Subrata Pandey, who set up Punarnawa in 2011 to empower tribal women by training them to become skilled artisans. Subrata was just 21 at that time but she had a strong desire to revive and popularize traditional crafts through new-age designs by training the tribal women.

There is a huge demand for Punarnawa’s exclusive heirloom textiles like pure zari Banarasi sarees, revival museum-based antique textiles, Paithani, Awadh and Dhakia Jamdani, Awadhi Chikankari, and indigenous textiles of Assam.

In the last 12 years, the social enterprise has worked with thousands of women in Odisha's predominant tribal areas and the North East and they earn up to Rs 15,000 a month. More importantly, the women are confident and happy as they are now economically empowered.

Last week, we wrote about five entrepreneurs who are generating cash from trash! They turned their ideas into successful businesses addressing environmental pollution. These entrepreneurs are upcycling and recycling plastic, paper, temple flowers and other waste to make utility and home décor items sold across the world. And they all employ members of underprivileged communities. Do look up their impactful journey.

While World Environment Day is observed globally on June 5, it is not easy to draw the interest of the younger generation to the idea of conservation. Author Priyadarshini Panchapakesan has written how she is using storytelling as an effective way to connect young minds with nature. They are piqued when they realise the connection of conservation with their immediate surroundings and local communities. So the key to inculcating awareness among children lies in creating the right narratives.

Our Sunday story makes a comforting read in this scorching heat compounded by the delay in Monsoon. It is on lakes built centuries ago by the kings and queens of Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s second-biggest city on the fringes of the Thar Desert. How do these lakes continue to supply water to the residents even today? Read on to know.

Enjoy your Sunday!





Dharavi: How this US-returned filmmaker is empowering youth through coding, filmmaking & more


Five entrepreneurs making cash from trash


Woman on a mission: Subrata Pandey is supporting tribal women, reviving lost crafts in Odisha