Utopia is a Place - MISO
Perfume made in a slum
Utopia is a Place, perfume, slum, Dharavi, Mumbai
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Utopia is a Place

Utopia is a place is a perfume made in Dharavi, Mumbai. Making this perfume is an action aiming to combat stereotypes and prejudices towards slum inhabitants precisely because those prejudices and stereotypes justify and perpetuate inequality.


Dharavi is a slum, it is the largest informal settlement in Asia and one of the largest in the world. Since the 80s, Dharavi has been welcoming different migratory waves until reaching its current size, a gigantic area in the very center of Mumbai. There are no official censuses. The population of Dharavi is estimated between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people. The fact that there is no concrete data contributes to the invisibility, marginalization and disempowerment of these communities.


A slum like Dharavi might not be as people think.


In many ways, Dharavi is one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in Mumbai. Its real face is one of hope and aspiration. Thousands of small businesses thrive in Dharavi creating a huge informal economy based on recycling with an annual turnover of approximately $1 billion. Despite the fact that Dharavi’s is no different from other communities in Mumbai, for its inhabitants, and especially for women, the fact of living in the slum is a stigma which entails enduring all kinds of prejudices and stereotypes. Prejudices that translate into fewer employment opportunities and fewer possibilities for improving their life conditions in terms of rights.

A growing movement within activists and urban planners is trying to remove the pejorative classification of «slum» to emphasize that Dharavi, among many other slums, is also a place where people struggle to turn their ideas real, to work, and create businesses. To give full recognition of rights to the inhabitants of Dharavi and more power in the development process, it is necessary to remove prejudices and look for new ways of describing the neighborhood.


Our perfume is aimed to make a political statement. We want to create something that makes you think twice about what a slum is.


With this action we want to change Dharavi’s story and help restore dignity to a reviled community that struggles day by day to achieve a better life.


Tons of flowers such as jasmine, marigold or lotus; fruits like coconut; and spices like turmeric and cardamom are used on a daily basis in houses and in countless Dharavi temples as offerings in pujas, Hindu rituals. Our project’s goal is the creation of a perfume by recycling all these elements.

We are going to create a subtle fragrance capable of arousing emotion. We want to make an exciting and counterintuitive product. We will use different extraction techniques to obtain the essential oils and absolutes from these flowers, fruits and spices: steam distillation, enfleurage, solvent extraction, maceration …

We want to generate a positive impact. We will install our little laboratory in the neighborhood. We will hire workers from the neighborhood to help us with the collection of discarded flowers and in the different tasks for making our perfume


La extracción de la mayor parte de los aceites esenciales la realizaremos con la técnica de arrastre de vapor, El vapor de agua arrastra los aceites esenciales y por un proceso de enfriado y decantado podemos separarlos para ser usados en la elaboración de perfume. Hay plantas, en cambio, cuyo aroma no puede ser extraido mediante esta técnica, las altas temperaturas del vapor las destruirían, es el caso del jazmín. El jazmín es una flor muy popular en los pujas. Es una planta con un aroma muy suave y delicado. Existen varios métodos de extracción dele jazmín: el enfleurage, una técnica muy antigua en la que las flores de jazmín se pegan a una grasa a la que transmitirán su aroma, después esa grasa será disuelta para conseguir el absoluto. También podemos utilizar el método en una grása líquida que nos permitirá reutilizarla antes de proceder a su disolución con hexano y su posterior decantación en absoluto de jazmín.

More about pujas:

El ritual hindú más conocido de adoración a los Dioses se conoce como puja (se pronuncia “puya”) , y se realiza tanto en la intimidad del hogar como en los templos y en celebraciones masivas que congregan a millones de personas.

Todo el mundo puede hacer una puja. Se trata de dedicar un momento de recogimiento y agradecimiento a los Dioses, en el que se colocan ofrendas ante el altar. Cualquier rincón de la casa puede servir como altar. Sólo es necesario que haya imágenes de las deidades favoritas, a las que se ofrece incienso, flores, o una vela encendida. También es costumbre bañarse antes de sentarte frente al altar para presentarse limpio frente a los dioses.

Por lo general, cada comunidad elige a su deidad para que los protega y les traiga fortuna. A esta se le construye un pequeño altar en el pueblo y allí es donde se colocan las ofrendas, como dulces o flores y elevan sus peticiones: lluvia para sus campos, buenas cosecha, encontrar un buen marido para la hija, etc…

El ritual se inicia con la ruptura de un coco  contra el suelo, cosa que simboliza la eliminación del ego, una forma de aproximarse al Dios desde la humildad. Una vez partido, se añaden tres porciones de una especia roja y amarilla: la cúrcuma. Cada porción representa un Dios: Brahma (el creador), Vishnú (el equilibrador) y Shiva (el destructor). A menudo los participantes se dibujan un punto en el entrecejo, como símbolo de protección. Otro de los elementos que se utilizan siempre es el incienso, que limpia el ambiente de malas energías, así como campanas, velas, etc. Al final del ritual, los participantes hacen una reverencia frente a la deidad invocada, como último acto de humildad y adoración




Flowers are considered holy and offered to the deities. In Hinduism, you can find various flowers that are offered to Gods and Goddesses. For example, pink lotus is offered to Goddess Lakshmi and white lotus on the other hand is a favourite flower of Goddess Saraswati. Similarly, yellow coloured flowers are loved by Lord Vishnu, red flowers by Lord Hanuman, and white flowers by Lord Shiva etc. So, God is worshiped with different Indian pooja flowers. There are many Indian pooja flowers that can be used for offering prayers. For example, jasmine, marigold, red hibiscus are few Indian pooja flowers that are offered to Gods and impress them. Few of the flowers like marigold and red hibiscus are offered to more than one Gods. Red hibiscus for example is loved by Maa Kali and Lord Hanuman. Marigold on the other side is offered to both Lord Vishnu and Ganesha as they both love yellow colour. Similarly, lotus is offered to Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati. It is also a flower loved by Lord Brahma. In iconography, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Brahma and Goddess Saraswati are portrayed on pink and white lotuses respectively. If you take a closer look at the Lord Vishnu idol, you can see Padmanabha (a lotus is seen coming out from His navel on which Lord Brahma is seated). Take a look at the Indian pooja flowers that can be offered to deities.

Read more at: https://www.boldsky.com/yoga-spirituality/faith-mysticism/2013/indian-pooja-flowers-034266.html

Nerium Oleander

Red Indian pooja flowers like red hibiscus, nerium oleander and red rose are offered to Goddess Durga.


The saffron yellow flower is offered to Lord Ganesha. In few places, you can also see this Indian pooja flower being offered to Lord Vishnu.


Lord Vishnu is often worshiped by offering the aromatic, white jasmine flowers. He also loves marigold and any other yellow coloured flower.

Red Hibiscus

This Indian pooja flower is offered to Lord Hanuman, Maa Durga and Maa Kali.


Home to up to 1 million people according to some estimates, it’s widely considered the densest urban habitat on the planet. It also lacks the most basic public services.

The future of the neighborhood is up in the air. Rather than rehabilitating and integrating the slum while taking into account the needs of residents, the state and municipal government are trying to appropriate and clear out their land for redevelopment.

Once a fishing village on the periphery of Mumbai, Dharavi was swallowed by the city in 1956 and now sits on some of its most valuable land near a new business district and between two major railway lines.

Other efforts to implement infrastructure improvements also languish as developers and real estate speculators vie for approval to simply bulldoze the neighborhood. The rhetoric of how to handle “slum” reform is mired by private interests.

But there is an empowering discourse emerging from the ideological gridlock over the future of Dharavi. A growing movement within the activist and urbanist community is trying to dispel the onerous “slum” classification in order to emphasize that Dharavi, among many other slums, are also incubators of enterprise and community. To give recognition to the full rights of the citizens who live in Dharavi, and more participation in the redevelopment process, requires searching for new ways to depict the neighborhood.

“There is straightforward prejudice operating,” said Rahul Srivastava, cofounder of the experimental urban lab and action collective URBZ. “If you belong to a sociological marginal community in the city, then your habitat is almost de facto a slum… This attitude, this prejudiced eye, this treatment begins to leach all possibilities of improving civic infrastructure.”

Momentum is growing to recognize Dharavi as an essential part of Mumbai, deserving of the public services that have been long promised, especially as the rest of the city continues to be transformed into a chaotic assemblage of walled compounds and malls mired in staggering traffic jams.

In many ways, Dharavi is one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in Mumbai. It’s real face is one of hope and aspiration. Despite its designation as a slum, the economic output of cottage industries within the neighborhood reaches upwards to $1 billion annually. Homes are kept neat and tidy. Dharavi residents also recycle much of the city’s trash, leaving experts to believe that Mumbai would quickly be buried in its own refuse without its help. Many residents want to build upon what is already there and let Dharavi adapt and improve itself in a manner that keeps the value of the neighborhood in their own hands. If the SRA expanded access to clean water, constructed more public toilets, and provided better sanitation services, vast improvements in quality of life could be quickly realized, encouraging residents to invest more in their community.

Despite attempts to change the discourse regarding the future of Dharavi, the threat of imminent destruction remains. Rampant real estate speculation continues to warp the future of Mumbai and the fate of the neighborhood. Dharavi, long in the media and political spotlight, could be an excellent place to create a developmental model that exhibited sensitivity to residents and allowed their participation in an equitable redevelopment of their neighborhood.

Matthew Niederhauser https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/mumbais-smart-slum


More about urban development plans for Dharavi:

The Dharavi redevelopment project was first conceived in 2003, and has been on every party’s agenda during every election since. It has gone through two failed rounds of tendering, the last being in 2016. The approach then was to divide the 240-hectare slum sprawl into five sectors and redevelop them separately but with one master plan. Developers, however, stayed away, citing high risk amid a tepid real estate market. To show some progress ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government of the day hived off a relatively easy sector from the plan, and asked the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to work on it. However, MHADA managed to build only one building, comprising houses for 358 families, until the 2014 state assembly polls. Before 2018, when the Fadnavis government decided to merge all five sectors, including the one entrusted to MHADA, the housing authority had built only two buildings while work on two more was underway.



Estamos llevando a cabo una campaña en kickstarter. El dinero recaudado irá integramente destinado a hacer realidad este proyecto. Todo el dinero recaudado por encima de los costes de producción estimados irán a parar a diferentes proyectos actualmente en funcionamiento en Dharavi y cuyos principales destinatarios son los niños. Estamos en contacto con diferentes asociaciones para ayudarnos a vincular nuestro proyecto con el barrio y sería estupendo poder dejarles algo de financiación para sus propios proyectos.


Nuestros trabajos se mueven en el entorno del arte y el activismo urbano. Entre ellos podemos destacar la instalación de plantas de plástico en Beijing como forma de protesta contra el diseño de Qianmen street o la creación de aceite de oliva virgen extra con los olivos de la ciudad de Madrid. Acciones con las que queremos llamar la atención sobre diferentes problemáticas urbanas. Hemos tenido la ocasión de hablar de algunos de nuestros tabajos en diferentes foros. Aquí os dejamos una charla que hicimos en TEDxMadrid

Chemtrail Revolution es parte de una charla TED a la que fuimos invitados como ponentes el pasado 17 de septiembre en Las Naves del Español (Matadero Madrid) Muchas gracias a Antonella Broglia y a Javier Gárriz por la oportunidad de participar de esta experiencia.

Made with ♥ by MISO