All of Mumbai’s memories and castaway possessions come to die at the Deonar garbage mountains. And among these vast, teetering piles of discarded things – medical waste, rotten food, old clothes, broken glass and twisted metal – a small, forgotten community lives and works.
Scouring the dump for whatever can be resold or recycled, waste pickers also mark the familiar milestones of babies born, love found, illnesses suffered and recovered from. Like a mirror image, their stories are shaped by the influx of unwanted things from the world outside.
But now, as Deonar’s toxic halo becomes undeniable, a change is coming. And as officials try to close it, the lives that the pickers have built on the Mountain seem more fragile than ever.
Saumya Roy is a journalist and activist based in Mumbai. In 2010, she co-founded Vandana Foundation to support the livelihoods of Mumbai’s poorest micro-entrepreneurs; through this she met the community who depend on Deonar. Her writing has appeared in Forbes India magazine, wsj.com and Bloomberg News among others, and she has contributed a chapter to Dharavi: The Cities Within (HarperCollins, 2013), an anthology of essays on Asia’s largest slum.