A context of resiliency through goodness

Today I saw one of the most beautiful things I’ve yet seen in Mumbai: a bicycle rental stand in Dharavi for local children. Of course, I was ashamed a bit to be so reassured at the sight of it. But, it’s heartening to see something dedicated to recreation and happiness in the middle of a slum. I guess this represents the benefits of the rejection of the single story, the occasional pleasant surprise when squalor and poverty peel back to reveal to us reminders of incredible humanity that we’re embarrassed we forgot. We met the father who runs the store through his family as part of an effort to get some context behind the students we’ll have in our classes. As you can imagine from any person with enough optimism to have the idea to open a bicycle stand, to rent bikes in the hopes that kids will return them, he was incredibly genuine and good-spirited. He talked about how he and his family never do anything wrong or hurtful (nor do they plan to), and that he plans to just live to the best of his ability and feed his family in the hopes that someone higher up will take notice – liberation theology at its finest. The government demolished his original house to build a road and failed to give him due compensation. The father built his bicycle stand on his old property and earns his own compensation through use of the new bike-friendly road.

I’m writing this partially to give you some of the same context. A context of resiliency through goodness. I realized that the parents there want more than anything to have their children learn English and eventually be able to live a bit better than themselves – parents will cram seven people into the back of their shop and work endlessly. To this end, the government isn’t doing justice to the basic aspirations of its citizens through its schools. We next visited the schools we’ll work at – one classroom lacked a teacher, English classes aren’t taught in English, and most classes are taught by Rote method (learning through memorization – or, essentially, the copying of letters as unrecognizable shapes).  Oftentimes parents pull their children out of school because they’re frustrated at the system, not because they don’t value education.

Now that I know Dharavi as the families and children I met, as Sameera and Shankar, everything I see carries even more weight, compels me more because I remember, compare, think about how good people suffer in such quantity and magnitude. I’m especially looking forward to the classroom tomorrow as a collection of new people to meet and to hopefully understand better, even if they break my heart.