Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The other side

This morning, while I was reading the blog of a friend who also went to the Indian wedding, I realised I hadn’t given the full picture. I didn’t say or write a word about the poverty I saw. I was prepared for it, I knew what to expect. So when I saw people lying on the streets in rags, I wasn’t really shocked. I knew I was going to see this. I knew I was going to be pursued by begging children. And I knew that, as always in these situations, I had to shut down all emotions of compassion and empathy in order to emotionally survive this trip.

A 4 year old carrying her tiny baby brother – I first thought it was a doll
A little kitten lying in a dark corner, more dead than alive
A girl begging me for money at the open window of our cab, while scratching her head.
Another girl, maybe 8 years old, running after me for money, dragging along a toddler, who was crying because he couldn’t keep up with her.
Those are some images that managed to get beyond my eyes, straight to my heart.

However, I can’t shake of the feeling that the poverty I’ve seen seems like an accepted part of society in India, almost institutionalised. I didn’t feel the will to “move upwards” or change – also reflected in the city of Mumbai itself. No where there were renovation works to be seen, no where I saw proof of something, someone, trying to make life better in this city. Only big billboards with “Lets make Mumbai clean”, as if they want to keep up appearances somehow.
I don’t want to judge, I want to know more.
What do Indians themselves define as “poor”?
How do they see their society?
What do they feel towards begging children?

1 comment:

spacetiger said...

My impression is that, being heavily Hindu, the way poverty is viewed has a lot to do with religion. I read this:

"From a western perspective it may appear that many Hindus are poor. However, from the perspective of an Hindu, every one lead a standard of life which is in accordance with the Law of Karma.

This does not mean people are poor because of their past actions. It is quite possible that they are poor by choice. Everyone has various priorities in life. Money was never among the top in the list of priorities among the majority of Hindus.

Money is required only for survival. It can never bring happiness."

It probably has a lot to do, also, with the traditional caste system which is "abolished" in theory but obviously plays a heavy role culturally still. I've never been, so I don't have first hand experience, but this is what I understand - that it is basically accepted by the people who are poor and those who are not as just... life. Also considering the overpopulation, it seems like a hopeless burden to try to help the poor at the moment. Very sad.