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In this Author’s Corner interview, we talk with Rashmi Bansal about her latest book Poor Little Rich Slum.
Rashmi Bansal is a well-known author of several popular books such as I Have A Dream, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish and Connect The Dots. Her latest book Poor Little Rich Slum which she has co-authored with Deepak Gandhi, deals with the spirit of entrepreneurship in India’s famous slum, Dharavi.
From your previous books that have explored a different kind of entrepreneurship, mostly of individuals with some level of education and middle-class backgrounds, what drove you to look at Dharavi?
The idea for this book came from my co-author Deepak Gandhi. It all started when out of curiosity we went for a Dharavi slum tour. Instead of poverty and depression, we were surprised to see vibrant, enterprising people engaged in a variety of interesting occupations.
We felt compelled to go back and learn more as well as share what we found with others.
Did you notice any traits or aspects that were similar to entrepreneurs, whether in a slum like Dharavi or from affluent backgrounds?
Yes, I think the ability to see things others cannot. Entrepreneurs can visualize a future and are powered by positive thinking.
Second, a determination to keep doing something until it succeeds. For example, Jameel Shah made many, many pairs of shoes which were horrible, useless and unwearable; but he kept trying to learn from those mistakes. Ultimately, he succeeded and today his shoes are worn by Bollywood stars.
You’ve highlighted a few success stories from Dharavi like Shah Shoes; do you believe that these were rare stories of exceptional individuals who beat the system, or does an ecosystem like Dharavi have a role to play in enabling such stories?
Not everyone can achieve the same level of success but certainly Dharavi is a very conducive environment for small businesses. This is not a place where people sit idle, complain and expect help from the outside. Rather, it is a place where one is inspired to rise above the circumstances.
A young boy from UP or Bihar can come to Dharavi, get a job and roof over his head. He can learn a trade and also dream of becoming the owner of a small factory employing others. There are several success stories of this kind, making Dharavi an informal ‘incubator’ of micro-entrepreneurs.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
The contrast between Dharavi and our own lives. To go there, see and experience the realities and come back to the comfort of your own home makes one feel guilty. What have I done to deserve this and what have they done to deserve that?
First Shantaram; then Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers; and now Poor Little Rich Slum. How would you explain the increased interest in this aspect of India?
Foreigners have always been fascinated by slums. Poor Little Rich Slum is written by Indians, for Indians. Even today, slums are a ‘blind spot’ for us, something we would rather ignore or wish away. We hope this book changes the perspective of People Like Us.
What is your outlook on the entrepreneurs of Dharavi? Given the politico-real estate nexus and the grand plans for redevelopment in a land-starved city like Mumbai, what do you foresee?
Dharavi residents know their rights and cannot be simply pushed out or bought over. Any redevelopment plan will fail unless it has the involvement of the local people and takes into account their needs. We can only hope for the best!
*Photo credit: Rashmi Bansal (From left to right Dee Gandhi (photographer), Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi (co-authors))
Now dear readers, a book giveaway for you!
Answer this question: What do you think makes a poor slum rich?
Just leave your answer as a comment below – and two winners will get a signed copy of Poor Little Rich Slum!
Please note: Only 1 comment per person. The book can only be sent to a valid address in India. Giveaway closes on 9 AM IST 16th July 2012.
So what are you waiting for? Comment away!
Update: Giveaway Closed.
The winners are Meghna Dangi and Aditi Gaur. Congrats!
Previous Interviews in Author’s Corner:
Meghna Pant of One & A Half Wife
Eowyn Ivey of The Snow Child
Shakti Salgaokar of Imperfect Mr.Right
Himani Vashishta of Princess of Falcons
Lata Gwalani of Incognito
Nina Godiwalla of Suits
Urvashi Gulia of My Way Is The Highway
Kiran Manral of The Reluctant Detective
Ameera Al Hakawati of Desperate In Dubai
Judy Balan of Two Fates
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A new Gallup poll reveals that up to 40% of Indian women are angry compared to 27% of men. This is a change from 29% angry women and 28% angry men 10 years ago, in 2012.
Indian women are praised as ‘susheel’, virtuous and to be emulated when they are obedient, ready to serve others and when they put the wishes of others before their own. However, Indian women no longer seem content to be in the constrictive mould that the patriarchy has fashioned for them. A Gallup poll looked at the issue of women’s anger, their worry, stress, sadness and found that women consistently feel these emotions more than men, particularly in India.
What I loved was how there is so much in the movie of the SRK we have known, and also a totally new star. The gestures, the smile, the wit and the charisma are all too familiar, but you also witness a rawness, an edginess.
When a movie that got the entire nation in a twist – for the right and wrong reasons – hits the theatres, there is bound to be noise. From ‘I am going to watch it – first day first show’ to ‘Boycott the movie and make it a flop’, social media has been a furore of posts.
Let me get one thing straight here – I did not watch Pathaan to make a statement or to simply rebel as people would put it. I went to watch it for the sheer pleasure of witnessing my favourite superstar in all his glory being what he is best at being – his magnificent self. Because when it comes to screen presence, he burns it, melts it and then resurrects it as well like no other. Because when it comes to style and passion, he owns it like a boss. Because SRK is, in a way, my last connecting point to the girl that I once was. Though I have evolved into so many more things over the years, I don’t think I am ready to let go of that girl fully yet.
There is no elephant in the room really here because it’s a fact that Bollywood has a lot of cleaning up to do. Calling out on all the problematic aspects of the industry is important and in doing that, maintaining objectivity is also equally imperative. I went for Pathaan for entertainment and got more than I had hoped for. It is a clever, slick, witty, brilliantly packaged action movie that delivers what it promises to. Logic definitely goes flying out of the window at times and some scenes will make you go ‘kuch bhi’ , but the screenplay clearly reminds you that you knew all along what you were in for. The action sequences are lavish and someone like me who is not exactly a fan of this genre was also mind blown.
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