What was your first childhood memory, of learning that people lived differently than your family did?


I grew up in the middle east and have always lived in a comfortable roomy house with air-conditioners in every room… even in the kitchen. Back home in India, our home is just as splendid. But when we used to fly down to Mumbai every year for vacations, this was one of the first sights that would welcome me to my homeland when I peered out of the airplane window… huge expanses of tin or asbestos roofs.

See! I’m not kidding!

Before the new Mumbai airport came up, every passenger was given a taste of this as we would have to pass through these settlements on either side of the road when we exited the airport and were on our way to the hotel.

I used to look at the houses with fascination as people went about their daily lives living out of those tin houses. They did everything that we did – go to work, sending the kids to school, cooking dishes that smelled fabulous, watching TV… just regular people living regular lives but in extremely different living conditions.

Many houses were even multistorey structures!

Initially, I used to be fascinated… then that turned into sympathy for these people. But as I grew older and after I read ‘Shantaram’, my perception about slums changed drastically. Yes, it’s true that these people lived in makeshift lodgings that were probably way too small for anyone to live, let alone a family of three or four. But they lived much more enriched lives than a whole lot of us.

They came from all regions and religions and they all lived as one. If any ill-luck befell anyone, it was solved together. They were united in their struggles, their dreams, and their happiness.

A lot of people might be disgusted with the way they live. But I don’t think that’s affecting them in any way. Can any of these judgmental spectators offer all of them a palatial home each? If not, then it’s best they keep their judgments to themselves and let them live out their lives in whichever way they could.

Now, many travel agents are trying to make money out of this by arranging ‘walking tours’ for foreigners through the slums of Mumbai.

I have never understood the sadism behind this. What do they want to see? Do they want to see filth and poverty and appease themselves that their idea of India hence stands proven to be true? These people go back to their countries and write ‘emotional’ travel blogs about India. Somehow, I have found all this to be very wrong. Heck, one chap even made a movie on this and won himself an Oscar! *rolls eyes* What he did was basically sell people the image of India that they have in their minds and want to believe to be true… and he struck gold with whatever he did. Has anyone read Vikas Swarup’s ‘Q&A’ on which ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was based? If you have, you’d remember that none of the extremely disgusting parts are in the book. It was added for the sake of, like I said earlier, making people ascertain their false belief that India is a poverty-ridden and rotting country. Very clever! 😡

Ugh! There I go moving dangerously away from the subject. I’ll stop for now.

Images: Google images


What was your first childhood memory, of learning that people lived differently than your family did?


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