March 21, 2016

A Hope called ‘Home’: Mumbai

By Ankita Kohli

Photo Credit: Niqita Gupta

There is no place for home.

The meaning of ‘home’ stands different for each person. Even the less fortunate amongst us have something they call ‘home’.




Mahalaxmi West

Mumbai – a city that has intrigued and inspired travellers, dreamers and explorers from every part of the world, for centuries, is also home to the largest population of the homeless. Thousands migrate to the city in the hope of a better life, to find food to fill their stomachs. Little do they know that they are leaving behind one tragedy for another.


Near Dadar Central

They occupy the streets of Mumbai, the deserted areas, the hume pipes, the dumping grounds, and all those places that most of us are repulsed by. Struggling to make a public space, their private space, they build temporary structures from bamboo, tarpaulin, metal sheets or even a large enough cloth to cover their heads.




Mahim Koliwada

The inside of their home is filled with pieces of our forgotten lives. Abandoned furniture, worn-out clothes, broken toys, some old rugs and blankets collectively become an essential part of their lives.

Mansukh Bhai, lives in the dumping ground near Govandi, tediously built a bamboo shelter for his family using ropes, tarpaulin and bamboo.


Versova Beach

Tabassum, an elderly lady, found shelter near Haji Ali, where she used a beautiful printed bed-sheet as a roof over her head.  She says, ‘I love the sea and the waves. At night this bed-sheet flows with the wind and reminds me of the water’.


Haji Ali Bayside

Vidya, a young girl living outside Dadar station, innovates the gaps in the wall into a shelf space. And beneath the cracks lies her charming red carpet.


Kurla East

The homeless who live by the bay use sand bags to create a foundation. A mother of a talented little girl, near Mahalaxmi, encourages her daughter by putting up her artwork on the pavement wall.


Dadar Railway Station

Many of them work as day labourers, rickshaw drivers, rag pickers or trinket salesmen. Their stories are heartbreaking against this urban landscape. Their faces, hardened and determined to survive, to protect whatever little they have.


Reclamation, Bandra West

At night, the streets of Mumbai are dotted by men, women and children, laying peacefully in every corner, wrapped in a cocoon of hope and fearlessness. These distressed faces wake up every morning to the ruckus of a big city and the cacophony of blaring horns and open their eyes to see many strange faces passing by their moving homes.



The walls they build around them may not be as thick as our own, but they share a strong bond among them. Helping each other night after night. As the system destroys what’s illegal, the people of the streets repair what they call ‘home’. Endurance is their secret power.


Versova Beach

Every evening, when we are done with our daily jobs and are rushing out of our workplaces, the one thought on our mind is ‘I must get home’. Ironically, we never think of those people whose home we are passing by on the pedestrian – at that very moment.

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  1. Abhimanyu Kohli



    Wow! Always thought on the same lines, but could never put it into words and pictures. Well written!

  2. Rohini Kejriwal



    This is quite moving, and beautifully captured :)

  3. Swapan Mukherjee



    Poignantly captured, in words and images, an aspect of the underbelly of Mumbai.

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