(Repeats with byline)
By Danish Siddiqui
MUMBAI Oct 13 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 kilometre.
Zameel and his two sons, who attend a government-run school,
share a 4.5 metre by 3 metre (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 labourers.
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.
"I have to cook two meals for so many people, but it's
better to be a cook in a city like Mumbai rather than in a
roadside eatery in my village," Naseem said, smiling as he took
a break from kneading flour for roti inside the room.
"Here, all of them respect me so much because if I get angry
they won't get food."
Morning in the room starts at 4:00 a.m. when the first
occupant leaves for work, and by 8:00 a.m. it is empty.
"We all sleep so close to each other due to lack of space
that sometimes if we have to scratch our back, we scratch
someone sleeping next to us," said Parvez, 23, who works as an
All of the residents start trickling back in from 6:00 p.m.
The room has strict rules for residents that include no
television, no drinking and no smoking. Their only entertainment
is conversations dominated by teasing, or watching Bollywood
films on mobile phones.
"We can't watch movies in theatres because they are too
expensive," said Tabrez, a 34-year-old welder, as he watched
famous Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan sing on his mobile phone
with another resident.
"But thanks to these phones, I can now watch pirated
versions of the latest movies.
Everyone has come to the city with a dream to make it big,
and Salim, the room's youngest resident, is no exception.
"When I grow up, I want to become a pilot and fly everywhere
with my family," he said.
To see a slideshow about the migrants, click:
(Reporting by Danish Siddiqui, editing by Elaine Lies)