- Posted August 20, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
My first visit to a slum in India
As a student, almost two years back, as a part of my college assignment, my assignment group and me, headed to a nearby slum situated in the centre of Pune city in India. It was my first visit to a slum. This is the story of what my immediate thoughts were and how my experience was, as I stepped into the different world of an indifferent Indian city.
I was welcomed by the sight of a little baby goat grazing on small saplings that managed to squeeze through the many cracks emerging in the corners of a path paralleled by vulnerable looking shelters on the sides. It was a path paved with irregularly placed slabs of concrete that humbly managed to cover the dripping drainage below. I won’t say I was affected by the immediate sight of that slum that lay immediately on the side of a city roadside. I thought to myself, it is just not fair for me to feel bad or hope it to be better, with my city-bred conservative imagination of a good life. Well, keeping in mind the reason I was there, to complete my college project work, I left the ‘city’ behind and entered a completely different territory, something that slightly resembled anything of what I left behind- though it was only a matter for me to turn and look behind to be reminded of that stark difference of what existed inside the same city. For a moment I thought over how a city can garner and breed such different worlds together at the same place, standing erect in the same land, though yes it is not uncommon of most cities.
My friends and I, we were in the lookout for the residents of the slum to interview them. The basic purpose was to understand and observe their lifestyle and socio-economic aspect. Though indeed, it was too hopeful of us to understand their way of life in a couple of hours and in a couple of questions, but we attempted anyway.
It was a ‘beautiful’ maze inside! I could not believe maze of pathways inside, the way one led to another, criss-crossing, overlapping, extending more and more. There were women mostly, since the bread winners were out for work. Though they looked at us suspiciously, it mostly evaporated in about half an hour, probably owing to the fact that we looked young and so un-official. Only an hour through with my work, while conducting interview with one middle-aged dweller who owned a lakdi-ka-dukan, he probably saw my fatigue owing to my sedentary life so far, offered me a red plastic chair. I was relieved obviously and glad I did not have to vocally express my ‘need’ for a chair! I continued interviewing him. Though I did not immediately realise, we had gathered a crowd quickly, as slowly the residents, out of their curiosity started coming out of their sheltered vicinity and with more than a willingness to be interviewed.
What I observed mostly there were the children. Vocal and not so shy, unlike what I was in that age, they wanted to know about us what we wanted to know about them! Though later of course, they could not hide the excitement to get a free ball-pen that one of my friends had got with her to distribute among these kids. One particular child really struck me though. Still dressed in his somewhat dirty and tattered school uniform, probably 14, I tried to look at him and figure out what goes behind those innocent eyes. He must have seen the other half of the city and the life that comes along with it; something that he might or might not have a desire for. I was curious to know and ask whether he wanted to live a city life and live in a flat in a tall building with the facility of taps and toilets inside, but I could not muster to do so, as I was nervous of what I may be exposing him to or in fact initiate that thought in him if he never thought of it before.
Though in that small visit, I cannot say that I was touched or shocked- it was a humble living. We laughed with them, listened to their grievances towards the government, I realised most of what they deal and feel is the same, though the dimensions are different.