Having just arrived from the US the day before, sitting at the breakfast table and talking to Juhi I made an impulsive decision and told her that I would like to accompany her, Sriya and Zohar into the slums of Wadala until my prior committed summer internship began.
Before I knew it, a few hours later I was walking through the slum streets shared by an assortment of stores, pipelines, garbage, mosques, temples, vehicles, goats, chickens, roosters, men, women and children. It could be viewed, as a city in it’s self, isolated it looked like it had all the amenities required to run a small-scale industry within a confined area. And now the new transient guests of this city were Juhi, Sriya, Zohar and I.
Walking beneath the sun and sipping water the heat was strong and getting to me… this has always been one of my week points, I have never been able to get used to the humid summers of Mumbai even though I was born and brought up in this hustling and bustling city. Did the fast paced movement around overwhelm me? Not the least bit; living in Mumbai had already prepared me for this.
I don’t know if it was the heat to blame or that I was just jet-lagged but my head started to fill with uncanny questions, the answers to these questions that I believe at some level are true : did I feel different… Did I feel like I was walking into unfamiliar territory? Did I feel like I didn’t belong here at all? …not the least bit.
It all seemed so familiar, as though I had belonged here and had grown up in such a surrounding and had slowly but surely grown accustomed to it. Why, I still don’t have an answer…
After walking for a few minutes we reached Mr. Gangadhar’s office, the Admin in-charge of Parivarthan School whom we would be working with. He gave us a short overview and description of what the current settings of the 2 of the 3 schools that were currently functioning, the third having been shut down due to lack of funds. We were soon introduced to the teacher of one of the schools who goes by the name “Gayatri teacher” and Shoaib, Mr. Gangadar’s 15 year old part-time assistant currently gaining some experience during his summer of from school.