My 4th week of my internship is coming to an end and I feel as if my thoughts are spinning with excitement along with confusion. We tend to ask why does poverty exist? And that can be a whole discourse with various reasons depending on who is presenting them. Why is life so unfair to some? And that too can involve a whole set of definitions of “unfair”.
I saw a man last week next to the road, where his home was surrounded by huge bags of garbage and dirty empty containers. His house was no more than a bunch of tarps and cardboard over some wooden logs, his and his family’s bed was a simple empty sack layed on the dirt. Now, I’ve seen many of these structures while I’ve been here, but this time was different for me. This time my translator, the cluster coordinator I was with, and I walked up to the man sitting on his bed and asked him how he was doing. He looked incredibly sad, a face not yet seen here since most people are full of smiles and vibrant eyes. Prior to this encounter my thoughts were going on the track of ‘mo money mo problems’, people seemed happy in these slums. Sure, they don’t have the resources or commodities we have back home, but they seem content with what they have, they make it work. But at this moment, this didn’t apply anymore. This man who usually eats scraps or food given to him had not eaten in two days. The sadness that his face carried also included the fact that he was a father to three daughters, something considered in this area as a social burden. Having daughters instead of sons means you have to marry them off and pay for everything too. It’s definitely a huge weight on their backs if you see it from their perspective, especially coming from an extremely low caste. As he spoke to my translator in a soft voice, I reached into my backpack remembering that I had the food Pooja’s mom had packed for me. When I gave it to him, tears automatically rolled down his check, something that initiated tears in mine. It was hard not to cry. I didn’t exchange words with him, I didn’t even touch him, yet he provoked a huge emotion in me in just a couple minutes. As I got into the car, the tears continued to slowly come down. Why couldn’t I stop crying? I felt hopeless, thinking back to my initial attitude coming here knowing that I wasn’t coming here to change anything. This world is too messed up to cause a good dent in it.
Ok, I’m exaggerating on that last point. But still, I had a whole mixture of thoughts: Why do the poor suffer the most? Do the poor suffer the most? The poor I’ve met thus far have been the most humble and genuine people around; so giving and loving with amazing hospitality, offering so much to a stranger without expectations for anything in return. Those thoughts only triggered more thoughts. Is there a scale to measure suffering? Why do people practice inequality among humans? Why does this caste structure exist? Why do things not make sense to me? Can’t people just have good hearts and be nice and help each other out? Ok- that one was a little too romantic. But why are some people so greedy, or so religious, often times putting money into things that don’t help the well being of human kind? Who are they to practice inequality among their own kind? Who are we, who do the same thing back home? Who am I to think this? Geez, and my thoughts just go on and on….
Below is a 5yr old girl washing the dishes for her family.
Below is a picture of a women who has gone to retrieve water from a water tank which comes twice a day, for one hour only. The water arrives clean, but then has high chances of becoming contaminated as it gets into dirty buckets or is left in opened containers.
Below I’m standing with Deepika (center), who was forced to marry at the age of twelve. She had her first child at the age of 13, and now at the age of 20 she has 4 children and plans to have no more, using an IUD which the HUP programs have suggested to use. Next to her is Mumtah, an enthusiastic Link Worker who visits the homes in her assigned area of the slums, counseling women and advising that they attend the HUP events.