Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mumbai Weekends: Slums and Smiles

If you really want to witness the gap between the rich and the poor in this country, you should stay in Mumbai, the so-called city of dreams and observe the lives of people in the tallest of buildings and the smallest of slums..
Mumbai is beautiful yet filthy..It is popularly known as the city that never sleeps..Its just that some stay awake to enjoy the awesome nightlife of this city, some are unable to sleep due to hunger..Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I am in a love hate relationship with Mumbai even now..
I used to go to my office in South Bombay from my place in Chembur.. I used to sit on the window seat of my bus every single day, just to watch people in an area called Reay Road, which happens to be a slum area in Mumbai where families stay in an area as small as your house's washroom, maybe even smaller...I used to stare at all adults- I saw expressionless faces everyday. I saw women with infants crying, I saw exhausted men..

No, this blog post is not about poverty stricken India, this blog post is not about the gap between the rich and the poor..Amidst those slums and the unforgettable sight of people trying to live in places so small that it was incomprehensibly difficult for me to imagine how they survived..I saw children, I saw small kids with ragged clothes, with their stomachs bloating due to malnutrition, with dark skin in the burning heat of May..And then, I saw their eyes..I saw real expressions I could relate to.. Fearlessness was the first thing that I noticed in those small eyes..and then, I couldn't concentrate on anything else throughout..Those eyes were so captivating that no novel, no song and absolutely no conversation could distract me at all..

I was wondering how there could be a difference between those expressionless faces of the adults in those slums and the fearlessness among all the kids..I used to watch them daily..They used to play with tyres, they used to run and run with bare feet, with ragged clothes or no clothes..They used to fight with each other, they used to play with things they used to find in the leaps of garbage around..And I saw the cutest smiles in those slums..I saw fearless dreams amidst rags and filth..They say those kids can steal for money..They say those kids aren't innocent..I call them brave..
And while writing this post, I recall Paulo Coehlo's quote, "A child can teach an adult three things- to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires".

Even though these kids in slums do not have the luxury to demand things, perhaps their fearless eyes tell me that they dare to dream..They find happiness in the smallest of things.. Maybe this feeling, this fearlessness is because of the fact that they have nothing to lose..The sky is their roof and the hot dusty roads where they walk barefoot are their playgrounds..Every night,they sleep without toys and blankets..maybe they stare at the sky and the stars before going to sleep..And when they stare at the sky,when they play with each other and smile, they are not poor slum kids, they are simply children..

There is this Punjabi song.."Bachpan vargi mauj ni labni puri zindagi chon"  (You won't find the joy and happiness of your childhood, ever again in your entire life..And I couldn't agree more..
When I look at these slum kids, I find smiles all around..Even after being poverty stricken and being devoid of basic needs, they are children at the end of the day..They dream,they play,they keep themselves busy and they stay happy..They are fearless..Whenever people tell me about stories of child abuse and child trafficking, rapes of minor girls, I feel so scared that I would never be able to put it in words..Poverty can never take away childhood and childlike spirit of finding happiness in the smallest of things..Child abuse can..

When I look at them, I wish I could be a child again..I wish we could do something to make sure that every child enjoys his childhood..I wish we could add more smiles to these slums..I find an inspiration.. an inspiration to have a child like approach..to keep walking, running and playing around.. If only, we could stay like kids forever!

Next Blog Soon :-)
Sonia
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