Do I take a bite?
When I went to visit the home of Taqueer, my sixth grade student, today, it was as though I stepped fully out of my world and into his world. Though we have gone on community tours and have had arranged conversations with members of the slums, I felt, for the first time, as though I had stopped watching what was going on around me and had started participating. As I expected, their home was compact. Five family members lived in a two-floor complex with a total living space probably smaller than my single dorm room freshman year at Andover.
We took off our shoes when we entered and sat together on the floor in the middle of the home. I leaned against a flimsy ladder that connected the first floor to the sleeping room upstairs. On this floor, there was a small kitchen and washing area. In stark contrast to the buckets of washing water and broken pots and pans, there was a television as well as a refrigerator-- Even more shocking to me was the fish bowl next to the kitchen utensils.
Although Taqueer’s mother was busily washing clothes that had been soaked by the flooding from the monsoon the day before, she sat with us as well. Hospitably, she served us a fried dish she had prepared and glasses of tap water…
I had felt so comfortable in her home until this moment…I froze.
I knew I could not drink the water—I would get sick-- and, I was uncomfortable eating the food as well. I did not know how to handle the situation. Was it better to be polite or look out for my health? Politely, I turned down her food, although I am still not certain if it was the proper way to handle that situation.
Then, the situation got even more uncomfortable. The Teach for India (TFI) instructor or “didi” with me on my tour, Sherrill, offered a piece to Taqueer when he came to sit with us.
“No, I shouldn’t have that. I had food yesterday,” he said.
I glanced at Lily, who is sitting to my left. Did I hear that correctly? I was shocked. My heart started to pound and my thoughts were racing. But, I tried to suppress my reaction.
I had several snacks in my bag and I was only gone from the hotel for a couple of hours. How could I possibly take the fried snack from a child who did not eat every day?
Going in and out of these two worlds was really challenging for me. I felt more thankful for the things I have, yet also guilty that I have them.
After returning from Kurla, the slum community we were in, I promptly showered and met our group for a nice lunch. The meal was delicious, but, in some ways, nauseating. As I sat at the table, dipping naan in my warm soup, I knew that Taqueer’s stomach was rumbling at school, like always.