Because I am a boy!
Initially entering India, I was shocked by some of the major similarities that I did not accept to see. For starters, Mumbai is practically a tropical New York! My host student dresses and talks the same way that I do for the most part, and of course, there are the ever-familiar golden arches of McDonalds that greet us like an old friend from time to time. Entering week two however, I am starting to notice quite a number of differences; the largest being the inequality between male and female counterparts. Initially, I expected this inequality and was largely able to ignore it; but after our second visit to Dharavi today, I cannot help but acknowledge it. Sitting in the one room house of young Alkov, a very intelligent and friendly 8-year-old boy, I was having a blast chatting with him about cars, airplanes and our favorite colors. As I began to walk out the door to visit the next child, my Teach for India Fellow (Amit) asked me if I would mind staying at this house for a little while longer due to the fact that Alkov’s sister wanted to spend time with me. I was initially honored that Alkov’s sister found me inserting, but then I was upset with myself for not having paid her more attention. Walking back into the room I looked around for her but she was nowhere to be seen. The mother motioned for me to sit back on the bed and I began to talk to Alkov again, this time with an eye peeled for his sister. After about 10 minutes I managed to catch a glimpse of her as she shyly swept the floor, helped with washing and tidied up loose ends, but the most I could squeeze out of her was a shy smile and a quick hand wave.
Finally Mr.Housiaux asked, “Alkov, do you do any chores around the house?” “No,” he replied quickly. “Why not?” Mr. Housiaux prodded. “Because I am a boy!” he answered point blank.
To Alkov it was not a question; it was simply the way things are, his answer leaving Matt, Mr. Housiaux and I shocked and our question leaving him a little confused as to why we would ever ask him such an obvious question.
Later on as we scoped out the scene of the local school that we are going to be working at tomorrow, Amit told us how the vast majority of girls are pulled out of school once they hit puberty to help around the house; this reality makes families likely to pull girls out of school randomly before this age due to the fact that they won’t be pursuing any higher level of schooling anyways.
With grim realities such as this accompanied by the primitive state of Dharavi, at times throughout my visit I felt as if I had driven 15 minutes down the road but 300 years back in time. This insight today adds yet another layer to the complexity of increasing education in the face of poverty.