'Nothing unusual about Syed's ambition. With an education, with experience, with energy and enthusiasm - a young man like him may well make it from Mahim to Manhattan.
But, what if he is not actually from Mahim?
"The moment I write 'Dharavi' and apply for a job, I will be rejected," he says matter of factly. "I always put my address as Mahim East."
Syed is born and brought up in Dharavi. His father and grandfather and great-grandfather have lived in Dharavi.
"I am not ashamed of my background. I grew up here, all my friends are here."
And yet. He must downplay this background, deny his roots. To be 'accepted' in the outside world.
'The image of Dharavi is very poor,' he shrugs, 'it's a slum area.'
Within this slum, there are pockets of affluence. The house Syed calls 'home' is not typical of Dharavi.
"It's a big area, proper construction. We have an attached toilet, washing machine, Dish TV, fridge - everything."
Everything but respect. When Syed went to the bank for an education loan, he was turned down.
"I gave a guarantee, even my house as a security, but I could not get the loan."
Ultimately, the family shelled out Rs. 4 lakh for Syed's hotel management course. Which makes him all the more determined to go abroad, and 'recover' the amount quickly.
"Most of the students pass class 10 and join degree courses. Science, or Commerce or Arts (only for girls.)".....
- Debolina Raja Gupta