A publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

The Global Citizen

Photo essay: My Mumbai 5km

The 5-km radius limit imposed on Melbourne last year set a geographical limit for residents in lockdown. From parks to shopping centres to local Asian takeaways, people became familiar with what lay within their radius. But in a city much bigger than the Victorian capital this restricting circumference has a different reality. When Prealene Khera returned to her hometown of Mumbai from Melbourne in September 2021, she decided to explore the 5km area around her home in the same way Melburnians had during their 262-day lockdown.

Words and photos by Prealene Khera

Paanch (Pa-aan-ch)

//Hindi word for ‘Five’// 

On the west coast of the Indian subcontinent, by the Arabian Sea, is the city of Mumbai.

This urban landscape is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a population of about 20 million, four times greater than Melbourne. Known as India’s financial capital, the city’s battle with coronavirus has not been easy.

The state of Maharashtra, which houses the city, was one of the worst-hit regions in the country.

By the end of 2021, Maharashtra’s covid deaths accounted for around 70% of the nationwide toll of 487,000 deaths, according to the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The sheer number of cases – about 7.2 million cases by the end of 2021 – overwhelmed hospitals and medical staff and created a shortage of bottled oxygen.

Authorities set a curfew, suspended local train services and restricted the operations of shops, entertainment and hospitality venues.

When this series was shot, covid had already swept through the area in two waves. Earlier, officials also predicted a third wave to begin gaining momentum at the beginning of October.

But even with the apprehension and warnings about another strike from the virus, people in Mumbai remained fearless.

Mumbai’s streetscape continued to be filled with life and colour — marigold sellers, construction workers, street food vendors and auto-rickshaw drivers.

Within a mere 5-km distance, people were leading starkly different lives but with the common thread of strength and resilience.

About The Citizen

THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

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