Akshay means indestructible

Our tour guide’s name was Akshay. As he led us through Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest and densest slums, I saw what indestructible meant. While stepping over a muddy puddle, he called out namaste to a woman in her home. While explaining to us that 21% of the residents in Dharavi openly defecate, he ruffled a young boy’s hair. Through the muck and the (literal) rain, he never stopped smiling. He was indestructible. His smile was indestructible. His spirit was indestructible.

In Ahmedabad, Jayesh Patel told us that we should never pity anyone, but rather we should move from pity towards compassion and love. I was shocked, after establishing that approach as my intention for our tour in Dharavi, by how easy it was to practice. We saw and experienced truly difficult conditions Dharavi: homes that were built so close to one another there was no room for sunlight to filter through the makeshift doorways, children playing cricket while standing atop a trash pile the size of a pool, and men and women working diligently, and in dangerous conditions, with no breaks and no protection from the harsh materials they handled. And yet, with every passing smile and gesture of common humanity, I didn’t feel any pity.

All I felt was love.

Pity is not love. Pity is a degrading and dehumanizing manifestation of love. Pity is oppressive. Love is uplifting. Pity is unproductive. Love is all-powerful. Pity separates. Love unites.

Pity is not love. And as we walked through Dharavi, Akshay shared his love with everyone we passed. It was effortless. Love is effortless.