Checking my assumptions

In our meeting last week, Brad asked our group about our first perceptions of Dharavi, the slum we will be working in while we are in Mumbai. We described the slum as dirty, crowded, unsanitary and separated, slightly embarrassed by our obvious stereotyping of the community. I said that I had thought the people of Dharavi would be angry because wealthier citizens lived in mansions surrounding the city while they were stuck in Dharavi. Thinking back on my response to Brad’s question, I realize that my response was unfair. I thought the slum dwellers would feel hostile because if I were living in the impoverished slum, I would certainly feel jealous of and bitter towards those wealthier living at the top of the hill. But, who am I to say that just because I would not enjoy living in this situation, they must not like it? Who am I to say that their living arrangements are poor and that they must be unhappy living there?

After just a short conversation with Brad, I found myself checking my own assumptions and ideas, a skill that will translate easily in India. Instead of asking myself what I think in a given situation, I will learn about what the people there feel, see, smell, think, and hear. I look forward to stepping off of the plane in less than three weeks and trying to figure out the answers to these questions. --Jessica