Perspectives. On our first orientation meeting for Niswarth, this was one of the words that stood in chalk against the board, as we discussed the weight of the word and the integration it will have into our vocabulary. After reading the New York Times article, In One Slum, Misery, Work, Politics and Hope, I am beginning to understand the true meaning of the word, and more importantly, its relationship with India. The article’s immediate description of Dharavi filled my eyes with tears, tears that come with a description of the unimaginable. As stated in the article: The streets smell of sewage and sweets. There are not enough toilets. There is not enough water. There is not enough space. Laborers sleep in sheds known as pongal houses, six men, maybe eight, packed into a single, tiny room — multiplied by many tiny rooms. Hygiene is terrible.
The thought, the mere thought, of such conditions being a single person’s reality, is emotionally shattering. Moreover to think that it extends beyond a single person’s story, but is the reality of more than eight million, the number of people living in India’s slums, is devastating.
And as I sit here trying to grasp the reality of Dharavi, I am astonished to learn that “People here do not speak of being miserable. People speak about trying to get ahead.” Perspectives. While I am home in my comfortable room in Andover, emotionally shaken to the point that I can barely type this blog, people of Dharavi, people actually experiencing what I can barely imagine, remain driven with a priority to earn.
Perspectives arise once again with the economic view of Dharavi, as “Private developers do not see a slum but a piece of property convenient to the airport surrounded by train stations and adjacent to a sleek office park.” This is a perspective that I personally have difficulty taking on, but is nevertheless a prominent viewpoint.
And then there is the universal perspective of hope. There is the story of Ms. Baskar who spends five months of her income to send her three children to private school. Ms. Baskar sees hope in her children, one of which has a dream of becoming a flight attendant, the other wanting to be a mechanical engineer. There is the hope that comes within education, the hope that drives Dharavi along, as both Hindu and Muslim mothers wait alongside each other for their children to come out of school. The mothers, from radically different perspectives, momentarily stand together with a common hope for the education of their children.
While there are many levels of perspectives to accompany the many levels of Dharavi, and the levels of India itself, maybe they are actually connected, united under a common perspective for hope. --Angela