One room is home to many in India's City of Dreams

Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:49am EDT
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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Salim stands between the sleeping bodies of two men on the floor of the room where they live as his father helps him get ready for school, straightening the dark tie of his school uniform.

A year ago, the eight-year-old made a 22-hour train journey from his village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai, the country's financial capital, known to migrants like him as "the City of Dreams."

He joined his 12-year-old brother, who migrated four years ago, and taxi-driver father Zameel in the room they share with other migrants from the same village in northern India -- a typical home for many of the migrants who pour into the world's second most populous city every day.

"I came to Mumbai with lots of dreams -- to earn money, to have a house. The city has given me a lot," said the 44-year-old Zameel, who drives a rented taxi for 12 hours each day.

"My children would not have gotten a city education back in the village. I hope they don't have to drive a taxi like me, I hope they sit in the back of the taxi. If they are able to do that, I will owe that too to Mumbai."

According to the latest census data released by the government of India this year, the population of Mumbai is more than 12 million. Due to a lack of space, it is also one of the world's most densely populated cities, estimated to have 20,482 people per square kilometer.

Zameel and his two sons, who attend a government-run school, share a 4.5 meter by 3 meter (15 by 10 feet) room in a small slum opposite a five-star hotel with seven other migrants. Most of them drive taxis, but a few work as manual laborers.

The room they occupy is full of clothes, utensils, kerosene stoves and other belongings, including two recycled plastic drums for storing water. Even a small comb which is tied to a thin rope is shared by everyone.

All the residents contribute for daily meals and groceries. Naseem, a 43-year-old migrant cook, does the cooking and shopping for everyone, receiving 3,000 rupees ($61) a month and free rent in return.   Continued...

<p>Zameel, a 44-year-old migrant taxi driver, adjusts the tie of his son Salim, 8, as he prepares him for school inside their one room dwelling in a residential area in Mumbai October 7, 2011. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui</p>