Mumbai slums, viewed thru the broken glass of a parapet wall
India is home to 60 million people with a higher living standard than England or France. It has the fourth largest number of billionaires. I have seen it, some Indians are macking it hard. And yet an incomprehensible amount lives in dire poverty. India is a mindfuck, for lack of a better word. To quote Tim Sebastian, “The statistics of modern India are breathtaking and point to an unprecedented event — the birth of an economic giant from within the poorest country on the planet. And that is why a thousand times a day every rule is defied and, every belief undermined. Just when you think you have discovered a basic truth, it laughs at you, runs away into the crowd and disappears for good.”
Like the Hindu pantheon, at some point you just have to give up comprehension. In Mumbai I was hemorrhaging money and watching 3D films and feeling like I was living in a real, happening city. Yet, I could also take a tour of the Dharavi slums and see another world. Not that different mind you, they were still doing over USD $500 million of business in the slums. On the tour my main impression was of industriousness. They were cleaning and reshaping oil cans, recycling cardboard, sewing, making textiles, tanning goat hides. You could wind through the warrens of houses and it seemed OK. The rooms were tiny but they were rooms. Babies dawdled on the doorstops. It wasn’t dire poverty, but I wouldn’t want to live there either.
Perhaps that was the lens of the tour, or perhaps that was the point. I expected to see a bit of poverty porn and it wasn’t that. It was capable people, struggling with dignity. It was not insane, but it was not the other side of India either. In Bangalore my friends are making western cash. They’re living damn well and I can’t even split the bill with them anymore, I just can’t. But a lot of people are left out of that prosperity.
This is no particular insight. Some are rich and some are poor. In India the gap is just so big, it’s like something’s got to give.
increasing numbers of the non-invitees are no longer content to press their noses against the windows of the wealthy, beg at the traffic lights and hawk their new-born children around the tourist sites, hoping to prick a few foreign consciences.
The harsh fact is that a third of the country’s districts are now fighting insurgencies, and unless more of India’s citizens get a sense of belonging to their “shining,” “incredible” country — as the PR disciples would have it — there are fears that the violence may increase substantially. (New York Times)
One wonders how Mother India is going to do it. Some of her children are doing great, some are not. Will they fight? Will things level out? Like the Hindu pantheon, I just stand outside and say wow, and how.