mind buzzing with confusion

Even though we visited it two days ago, my trip to Dharavi remains at the forefront of my mind. I vividly remember entering the slums, and how much of a shock reached my senses. Everything hit me all at once—I was faced with the sight of the poor conditions that nearly one million people have to live in each day, smelled the open drains, heard the cacophony of rumbling bulls and screeching industrial machines. I had expected to see poverty, and thought I had a good idea of what Dharavi would be like from movies and books, but my expectations were quickly overwhelmed by reality. I remember being surprised by the fact that, contrary to my previous notions, the people of Dharavi were not wallowing in the misery that so obviously surrounded them, and were making the best out of their situation. I saw factory workers diligently creating materials we use at home every day, women washing on the small step before their rooms, children brightly greeting me and asking me my name, each with a spirit of resilience and a flicker of internal fire. I walked out of Dharavi admiring the community’s hardiness and tight-knit nature immensely, and with a mind buzzing with confusion. I still cannot comprehend what I saw, or why these hardworking, welcoming people are among the worst-off in our world. I began to wonder what could be done to help the situation in Dharavi, and, during the Niswarth group’s discussions about the slum, realized that the problem is far too complex to come up with an answer on my own, much less in two days. I am now considering all the different opinions and perspectives that I have heard from the program’s participants rather than just my initial thoughts, and as my fellow student said, I am more unsure about how to approach Dharavi than I was when I had just left. However, though the path is winding and difficult, I have hope in Dharavi’s ability to develop, especially through education. Just before we left, we visited a preschool and met a group of teachers going through training. Discussing their approach in the classrooms of the slum and even joining them in song and dance raised my spirits and gave me hope in the power of schooling. I realized that this is why we are here—though we are only in India for 3 weeks and cannot hope to fix all its problems even in our lifetime, I look forward to trying to make a contribution, however small, to India’s future.

- Raquel