Monday, June 8, 2009

First day of Surveying

June 8, 2009

Today I went to Wadala, alone for the first time. I was lost, couldn’t find the landmark because the English school that used to mark where the office is has since been destroyed!

The person who drove me there was lost because the address given on the website is not Gangadhar’s address- it is the address to the main center. So when the driver spoke to the townspeople, I called Gangadhar and we waited near a shop. The shopowners took out a bench for me to sit and wait on.
I kept on thinking what an experience it must be for my driver. He must feel out of place. I don’t know his background, but I am guessing he didn’t grow up in the slums, and maybe has never exposed himself to the slum lifestyle.
Here he is in khaki uniform, being handed a stool to sit on while waiting, what was going on in his head? Usually HE is the one serving others.

This whole time I just wanted to be independent and find the place on my own, but the driver almost had a panic attack when I tried to communicate that to him.
Eventually Gangadhar came and brought me to Shabana, the Parivartan founder’s wife’s home. What a sweet woman! With a cute son!
Immediately I was offered water by the domestic worker, which I had to refuse. Then they wanted to feed me, which I refused as well.
While talking with her, and she spoke great English, I kept wondering what it’s like for her to live here. She has such an outsider perspective, yet is living here.
It’s inspiring.
She told me a little more about the community and history of Parivartan. Apparently a lot of families send their kids to the Islamic school where they learn the Koran (but it isn’t even translated or explained). Lots of kids’ parents say that they can’t go to school because they don’t have a birth certificate, which they then enroll in Parivartan and eventually Parivartan writes a letter to BMC explaining the situation to let them in.

She introduced us to a man who is a socialist and big in politics in India. They both told me that it is great that I am doing this- because there are few people that are doing something for the good of society. They told me that I should go into politics and bring this change there. Maybe?

I didn’t refuse the tea, because of the guilt of earlier, and hopefully I won’t be sick.
I started with the surveys. I am amused by their expectations of me. Gangadhar kept saying “how is the sun for you?...If during the survey you are tired, just come back”.

While surveying they asked me to sit down.

Eventually we got to one place with a lot of children and I let loose. Looking them all each in the eyes, I just played with them- simple play. They were so happy from this! The smiles on their faces!

And throughout this experience I keep thinking how uncomfortable I felt last night at the Bollywood scene and how much more comfortable I feel here with the poorest of the poor. If course here I feel judged, but there is no comparison to last night. Here life is so simple.

One little boy kept crying when I looked at him!

When I returned, Gangadhar asked “ how did you enjoy it?” I enthusiastically replied and that’s when attitude truly makes a difference.

Later, in the evening, I was discussing my project with a woman who asked “do you HAVE to do this work? Is it part of your studies?”

I looked at her and said, “no, I most definitely don’t have to. I want to”. And she said, “you know, it is great that you are doing something for the community. More people should. You know, I have heard of so many great NGO’s here doing great things, and I always say that I should get involved…but I just never do it…”


And I keep thinking of the question my mom’s friend has posed to my mom, “where did Zohar get so much empathy?”

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