The Rasoolpura slum is considered to probably be the biggest slum in Hyderabad, a quick search shows us that according to an old 2006 study, Rasoolpura had about 100,000 people inhabiting this slum. Due to its sheer size, the slum is split up into multiple areas, with a certain amount of distinct identities around each area. There seem to be a good mix of different faiths in the slum area, all living in close quarters. After finding our way into narrow roads from the Begumpet main road, the first thing we see as we enter the Rasoolpura slum was an inauguration stone for the 2BHK scheme announced by the TRS government, This was exciting, considering we haven't yet had the chance to look at houses under this scheme.
In our first drive through, what we noticed was the sheer variety, the Rasoolpura slum is broken down into multiple parts
After a quick drive around the basti, we decided to park and explore on foot, this would give us the opportunity to explore much narrower lanes than otherwise possible.
At the initial level, Rasoolpura looks very much like what one would imagine slums to be - dirty, littering everywhere with lots and lots of people. But once we started taking a closer look, we noticed that the house facing streets, or the interior streets of Rasoolpura were actually pretty tidy. Through a combined community effort, the interiors of this 'slum' actually look pretty much inhabitable, and almost charming in some areas. All of this is not to mask the level of poverty these people live in here. It is only to show that people can still keep their surroundings clean as long as it matters to them.
This was out first house, We decided to visit this house was because it seemed to have its door almost 500mm below the street level (600mm actually, after we measured it). We were curious, with the door level so much lower than the street level, wouldn’t water just gush in during the monsoons ?.
So we asked Manjula how she manages to live in the house during the rains. She seemed to be unperturbed by that thought, as she casually told us that water doesn’t really come in during the rains because she builds this small ledge in front of the door. We could still see some of the marks, presumably from the previous rains. The insides of the home were sparse with few possessions as seen in our photographs. We notice that this home is actually split into two, and enquire her about this, after which, we learned that half the house was sold to someone else a long time ago, and remains unoccupied since then.
Yenkamma home :
After a brief discussion with some of the locals who wanted us to present their homes in the hopes that some government employee would notice and give them proper houses, we entered some of the narrower areas of the basti. These areas are completely devoid of vehicular traffic as the lanes are too narrow, along the way we notice an old woman sitting by her door with a clean looking house. We find out that this is Mrs.Yenkamma's home. They had come down to the city about 60 years ago and worked in various small homes as a maid. 2 Years ago, she had constructed this home for herself and her son (who worked as a vegetable hawker). After her son passed away she has been living here alone, visited sometime by her other children. The home is a relatively more comfortable home than most others we have seen, owing to it being constructed recently/because of more care being put in. A small ledge on the outside completed this home. A few steps forward was where we were stopped by a Mr.Niranjan, our next home owner.
Mr.Nirajan's home had caught our attention because his was one of the only home with an upper floor access. We were curious about this upper floor access when we had come across and decided to explore. Mr.Niranjan is a Hamali worker and has been living here for a few decades now. His modest home consisted of two parts, the front living room and the kitchen. The living room was a tiny space of about 5sqm, with the kitchen attached to the back side. His wife and children live elsewhere as there is little space here. As a continuing theme, Mr.Niranjan had a lot to say about how the government promised a lot and couldn’t deliver, this is not unexpected, as hopeful government officials generally overpromise and underdeliver. This case was really no different, however with such high densities, politicians can get a lot of votes during campaign periods and would try to woo them before every elections. This is where we got to know of 1BHK homes the TDP government had built years ago as part of its rehabilitation program. This was going to be something we wanted to tackle in our next visit.
After spending some time in the winding streets of the basti, we ended up at a small old shack with a kirana store in it. This is where we met Mrs.Aruna. She had enthusiastically greeted us in when we requested if could have a look into her home. Mrs.Aruna lived with her husband and two children, recently her mother had moved in and manages the small kirana store that we had seen in the front. This household too makes a meagre income of about INR 12,000 a month. She is amongst the hopeful that the government would one day build her the 2BHK home that was promised to her by the politicians before the elections.
Rasoolpura is too big and diverse to be condensed into one single paragraph, the various walks of life, the problems, the adjustments that these people undergo is a rather tough one explain without actually experiencing it personally. We had been personally left with more questions than we came in with. A common theme though has been their dissatisfaction with the government. Even though a quick google search revealed that Rasoolpura had actually been the recipient of a lot of welfare schemes, was this a case of too little or a case of feeling entitled is not yet known, but the issues in this community are very much real. Although some parts of the basti have managed to eke a reasonable living out of this place, this is not a place to grow and expand. One of the major points of concern being the open drainage, that runs very intimately through the slum.
Another factor, that caught our attention, was every homes attempt at creating an identity/a small niche for themselves, while coexisting with one another. We intend to further draft out these attempts over the following walks.