By Rehana Iftikhar,
The immediate reaction of the word “slum“ is not a pleasant one. We think of it as a squalid and overcrowded urban street or district which is inhabited by very poor people. Slums are universally assumed to be the worst places for people to live in. I would say indeed it is! But what is of significance here is that, Children in Indian slums are happier than iPad generation, according to a Unicef report.
As we all are aware that, the number of people staying in the slums has increased by an alarming 50 per cent in a decade. More than a 100 children live in slums, most of who live in extremely deplorable conditions. I attempt to take a glimpse into their lives. Once we take a close look at their lives, we see that these kids are not low spirited or desolate .
They don’t get clean water to drink. Neither do they have proper sanitation or ventilation facilities in their houses. Power tripping, choked drains, stinking community toilets, mosquitoes and flies make their life miserable. Despite being surrounded by squalor in the makeshift shanty town these children can’t help but smile as they play in the street. One gets to see that, no smile is forced. No one is ashamed of where they lived. Their dignity seems impressive. But it is very important for us not to look at them with pity or compassion. Indeed, seeing people live on a dump site is a shocking view. But these young kids always manage to see the positive side of things. ‘One cannot imagine the smell and the amount of insects when there are acres of trash lying around you in the scorching sun.’
Dharavi is one such example. Dharavi, in central Mumbai (Bombay), is home to up to a million people and is Asia’s biggest slum. But yet this slum too has able to improve their conditions and have learnt to smile out of despair. It contains a huge conglomeration of cottage industries and primitive workshops that produce goods for the world market—an estimated 15,000 single-room factories—as well as an expanding industry processing recyclable waste from across Mumbai. The total annual turnover of Dharavi is estimated to be anywhere from US$650 million to US$1 billion. Many residents have a small color television with a cable connection that ensures they can catch up with their favorite cartoons and programs. Some of them even have a video player. Dharavi also has a large number of thriving small-scale industries that produce embroidered garments, export quality leather goods, pottery and plastic. Most of these products are made in tiny manufacturing units spread across the slum and are sold in domestic as well as international markets.
But now in India there are other slums which are beginning to rival Dharavi in size and squalor. The people there spend their days sorting through the trash, trying to find anything of value, mostly metal. We must note that, they all smiles carefree, with the hardships they face each day. It can be in the name of finding food to feed a family, fighting infection caused by poor sanitation, alcoholism, being forced to sell various things on the streets, either as a rag picker, or as a help in a tea stall .No matter what they all confront daily, they are capable enough to steal tiny little moments of joy, of enjoyment, from the hardship they face.
Moreover, many of these children are immensely talented. Most of these kids have multiple talents. They wait for the time when they get free so that they can go out in the open to play. The environment of gloom has not yet engulfed their dreams and hopes.
Rehana Iftikhar is a sophomore . Pursuing journalism and mass communication from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi. She aspires to be an eminent journalist. She likes to spend her time with her family and friends. If given a chance, she wants to explore the world with her family. A Fun loving girl who loves to sing. She is a friendly person, good thinker, flexible. She love to write and believes that a job should be like a hobby. Her basic instinct, is to keep learning and exploring, all the times.
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist