moving forward

After discussing at length a few times about the meaning of Dharavi (although ‘meaning’ might be too much of a rationalization) with the entire Andover group, I finally feel that I can package everything I’ve been feeling in some sort of comprehensible way. We’ve been hit with all of these sights, smells and sounds the past couple days, that make up such an unrelenting reminder of what we feel to be wrong in reality that it’s been good to think about the experience, the thoughts, the emotions. Because there has been this pervading sense of incomprehensibleness: a frustrating recognition of complexity that we’ve all been trying to engage with some meaningfulness. When I first went into Dharavi, it didn’t make sense to me that someone could work the hardest they possibly could, only to stay barely above abject poverty. And it still doesn’t fully – but I feel like I’m at the edge of something. We had a chance to collect our feelings this morning, and I realized that I had to actively intellectually reject any sense of pity or remorse that I felt by reminding myself that three thousand rupees goes a long way, or that at least there are jobs, that, hey, a slum can’t be here forever. But, the scary thing is that I’m not sure how resilient that intellectual rejection is, or whether it can be channeled effectively into action. I don’t want to feel hopeless – but that’s the initial visceral reaction. I don’t want frustration, but that’s what I feel when I think about how muddled right and wrong is in issues like this, when I remember that the companies that pay their Dharavi employees so little are the sustaining force of their lives by providing jobs. Especially when I actually think about the immense human factor of everything I see: that it’s people that made Dharavi poor, that it’s people that keep Dharavi poor, and that these people are usually in power and will stay there. Money exists in India. I’ve seen it in luxury car dealerships, hotels, apartments, and I’m not sure about the propensity for it to make its way to the slums. But, of course, the emotions always hit hardest at first, one way or another – as this incredibly new and revealing experience has developed, I’ve felt better, hopeful, at all the people and organizations of action: Aakanksha, Teach for India. I can’t reject immediately the facts we learned and glanced– about 90% of students don’t make it past 10th grade, that 50% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums. But as Krishna stresses, “One who shirks action does not attain freedom; no one can gain perfection by abstaining from work.” Respectfully,