we crossed a murky river

It is my last full day staying in Ahmedabad. In Ahmedabad my eyes have truly been opened to the world around me. Not only have I come to appreciate basic commodities, but I have also witnessed terrible poverty and wealth disparity which has made me question my lifestyle in America. While staying in Ahmedabad we lived in an ashram. Compared to my life in America, the Ashram provides very limited resources and forced me to revaluate how we use our supplies. Some of the basic supplies that can’t be found in the Ashram are: toilet paper, clean tap water, showers, and Internet. When I first arrived I felt very deprived and I longed for western comforts. I kept this mindset until we visited some of the local communities and villages. In these populations the people didn’t have access to: electricity, water, bathrooms, and numerous other modern resources. After witnessing these people I realized how incredibly lucky I am to live in a middle class family in America, and to be staying in the Ashram. Furthermore I have realized that even though we may live in very distant areas around the world, it is still our responsibility to help those who are less fortunate.

One of the most striking examples of poverty that I have witnessed so far is our walk through the slum. Entering the slum I immediately was hit with the overpowering scent of feces, and trash. As we walked further we crossed a murky river, which was a channel for raw sewerage. The deeper we went into the slum the more I was aware of the conditions around me. Diseased animals wandered the street, and old men drank water from translucent puddles in the road. We passed by a banana chip factory which was filled with child workers who gave us quiet smiles as they discarded peels into a massive heap. Eventually we attracted many followers who trailed us like a parade. Children ran up to us with warm smiles, as grown men and women stared at us from their stoops. When it was time to turn around I was scared. I didn’t want to face the path that lay behind me, and I felt ashamed that I was so unaware of communities like these prior to our visit.

When I reflected on my experience I did not know how to deal with my emotions. I am frustrated that slum dwellers have to live in terrible conditions, and I am angry that more people are not helping them. I also feel guilty and confused about entering the slum. As we were walking we attracted a lot of attention from the residents, and they followed and waved at us. I felt as if I didn’t deserve the attention they were giving me because we were just passing through and not there to physically help them. Moreover, I don’t know what we actually accomplished by visiting the slum. Certainly I gained an important experience, and it opened up my eyes to how many people live around the world. However, this experience was very one-sided. We did not help the slum dwellers, and if anything we intruded on their way of life, and may have made them feel uncomfortable.