“I have to get out of the house to give some space to my family,” says Kunchikurve, his rotund face partially obscured by a surgical mask to protect him from the coronavirus that is pressing in on his sparse life. He steps out into a narrow concrete alley, one of countless lanes zigzagging through Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, where as many as a million residents cram into one square mile — an area roughly the size of John Wayne Airport. Dharavi is dotted with tens of thousands of tin-roofed shanties and one-room manufacturing units, where Indians’ daily struggle for space is laid bare in a nation where lives are folded into one another. His wife, Renuka, sits just inside the doorway, cleaning green vegetables, dabbing the sweat on her forehead with her red patterned sari. Kunchikurvehas not earned a day’s wage — typically about $4 — in three weeks, since construction sites in Mumbai began shutting down in early March because of the outbreak. A cyclist rides past a bus stop outside the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, during the nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus. City workers and volunteers have fanned out across Dharavi to raise awareness about the disease, distribute masks and keep track of particularly vulnerable residents: older people, pregnant women and those with preexisting respiratory conditions. Vishakha’s public school hasn’t given her any material to study during the lockdown, so she spends the afternoon rereading notes and textbooks andwatching the news with her mother on the small TV mounted on the back wall next to the kitchen utensils. A tea seller hands cups to a customer from behind a barricade to preserve social distancing inside the Dharavi slum of Mumbai, India. The WhatsApp chat groups — India’s ever present and ever problematic digital grapevine — have been running wild with information about how to stay clean and safe during the pandemic, as well as the latest news on coronavirus cases that could not be verified but that everyone assumed were true.
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