birth and opportunity
Like many other members of the group, I was surprised at the commercial industry present in Dharavi. Seeing so many of the residents working, I was initially more hopeful and impressed than I had expected. But after we left and I started thinking about this reaction (one almost of relief), I began thinking more about the awful living and working conditions; the unlit rooms, the children wearing only underwear, the fact that I had to breathe through my mouth to avoid the overwhelming stench. While the high employment rate and the dedication of Dharavi had initially impressed me, the whole concept that people could work hard all day and still not make enough to live in even the most basic of proper living conditions made the entire situation more depressing than had there been less employment. In short, the amount of hope and the work ethic present in Dharavi add very much to the complexity of the issue. Since the residents of Dharavi may make up to four dollars per day and to succeed (to a degree) in the slum, their situation may seem less extreme. And yet these are people living at a standard any of us find incredibly shocking and inhumane. As I (by myself and with the group) have continued to reflect upon our visit during the past few days, the issues merely become more complex. I am forced to wonder not simply what aspects of Dharavi make it so difficult for a hardworking person to succeed, but those of Mumbai, of India, and of the world as a whole. This issue is not particular to a certain slum in a foreign country, but is present in the U.S. as well – where many work hard to earn a minimum wage that is not nearly enough to sustain an adequate lifestyle. My (limited) introduction to Dharavi has, more than any other experiences in Mumbai thus far, made me recognize how far-reaching so many issues relating to poverty are, and emphasized how important birth and opportunity are in determining the course of any individual life.