Hip-hop dream thrives in India’s largest slum

MUMBAI: After India’s largest slum defeated the COVID-19 pandemic, some of its young residents pulled out their phones to write, shoot and release a triumphant rap video.

“At first we were afraid, what would happen to us? But we stood with the doctors … now it’s your turn,” rapped the young men in the video.

We Did It – “Kar Dikhaya” in Hindi – showcased new talent and won acclaim from celebrities, but its creators’ abiding goal was to fight the stigma dogging this densely-populated corner of Mumbai.

The Dharavi slum is home to around 1 million people, many of whom live in single-room shanties and share communal toilets.

Its labyrinthine alleys have long been associated with filth and disease despite its remarkable success in the battle against COVID-19, and its residents battle constant discrimination.

But Ayush Tegar Renuka, one of the star students of the Dharavi Dream Project hip-hop academy, told AFP he feels “so proud” of belonging to the community.

“The Dharavi shown on TV channels and the real Dharavi are very different places,” the 16-year-old said.

Ayush began breakdancing three years ago, brushing off his widowed mother’s pleas to give up a pursuit she feared would result in a trip to the hospital.

She was not alone. Many parents were initially reluctant to enrol their children in the school’s free classes, dismissing hip-hop as dangerous, a distraction from homework or simply a waste of time.

The Dharavi Dream Project’s co-founder Dolly Rateshwar was determined to change their minds.

The daughter of a Hindu priest, Rateshwar was nervous about venturing into the neighbourhood, but the teenagers she met struck a chord with her.

“I was raised in a very conservative family … I never knew there was a bigger world out there,” the 38-year-old told AFP.

“And I was worried that these kids might lose out on life because they didn’t know the possibilities open to them.”

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