Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people
Going into Dharavi yesterday felt very intrusive and I couldn’t help but feel like a tourist. The ignorant one who looks around and unintentionally invades people’s privacy. I felt like the people living in Dharavi didn’t want me there in my clean white shirt and floral pants. With my closed toed shoes and sturdy backpack. With my 1 liter water bottle filled with filtered water. With my digital watch and antibacterial wipes. If they did want me there, I felt like they would’ve wanted it for entertainment, to see these stupid Americans stumbling around. Although there was one woman who was very proud of her life and made sure the tour guide told us she had a terrace and a chicken, my feelings still remain.
Throughout the tour, I kept thinking to myself, could I handle these living conditions? Even just one aspect, like the 10x10 one room house. In the beginning, I kept looking where I was stepping. Making sure I wasn’t walking on feces or things like that. As I was walking, I saw that the people living in Dharavi did not look at the ground, and walked like they were walking on a nicely paved road. I then realized, why does it matter? I have on covered shoes, something that the majority of the people living here don’t, and I can wash my feet. After this epiphany, I stopped looking at the ground. It helped me feel like less of an invader and more like I was trying to fit in and adapt to their behaviors. Also, it helped me feel like I wasn’t being disrespectful to their living conditions.
I think all of this is a question of privilege. What privilege do I have to go into their community and invade their personal space? I wasn’t going to do anything with that short tour. I wasn’t conducting a Design for Change project. I had no purpose to be there except to satisfy my own curiosity. This was the first time on the trip where I felt like I did nothing to contribute to the community that I visited. Privilege has been a reoccurring theme on the trip, and I’m starting to think it’s just a social construct that the higher class has created. We should not designate responsibilities and rights to certain people. We all have them.