Times 2

Real slumdog millionaires

Economy booms: Mumbai shacks being transformed into luxury homes
By Amy Oliver

From the outside it looks like any other run-down shack in the slums of Mumbai. But behind the stained doors and dirty walls, the Shaikh family home is kitted out with a range of mod-cons -- air conditioning, computers and swanky kitchen appliances.

They are one of the many once-poor families now living in five-star 'slum luxury', thanks to a booming Indian economy. The poverty and filth of Mumbai's sprawling shanty towns, made famous in film Slumdog Millionaire, are being replaced with fully furnished homes kitted out with every modern appliance.

Slum dwellers are suddenly becoming respected middle class families -- educated and employed, yet trapped in these crowded communities by soaring property prices in Mumbai. As a result 60 per cent of the city's residents in slum housing -- including white collar professionals, policemen and doctors -- are now using their newfound wealth to transform their surroundings instead.

The Shaikhs describe their three-bedroom house in Asia's biggest slum Dharavi, as 'the best in the neighbourhood.' 'Kids stand outside our house and watch in awe,' said Mohammed Jamshed Shaikh, an architect and one of five brothers who own the property, which also boasts a sitting room, kitchen and two bathrooms.

'Neighbours come and sit on our sofas and keep telling us how beautiful our house is. It gives us all a feeling of pride. 'In summers, our neighbours even borrow cold water and ice from our refrigerator. We never hesitate because we've been through that phase in our lives and are pleased to help -- there's no doubt they'll soon be able to afford similar luxuries as the slums are on the up.'

Second eldest brother Mohammed Zubair, 36, a shopkeeper, added: 'It is like a dream come true for us -- a few years ago we didn't have enough space to sleep. 'My father worked at a garment shop and we struggled to sustain ourselves. The men of the house had to sleep out in the street because there was no space inside.

'We used to wait endlessly for the workshops to empty out so we could spend our nights there.
'Our father struggled to send us to school but see what we have become today. Two of my brothers are in Dubai, earning more than £1,500 each per month, and three of us here are also earning between £300-£500 each,' he said.

When the family bought the house five years ago it was worth £25,000, but after spending £10,000 on renovations it's now worth £55,000. But despite the profit, buying a house in any other part of Mumbai, India's wealthy entertainment and business capital, is a distant dream for the Shaikhs.

'The property rates in Mumbai are soaring each day,' said Jamshed. 'Even if we could afford something small the apartments would be out in the suburbs, which will be too far from our shop and from the kids' school.

'Dharavi may be a slum for many, but for us it is our heaven.'

© Daily Mail, London

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