The Slums

February 21, 2013
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A feeling of helplessness and pain ripples through the slums of India. The sun shines too brightly, making the heat almost unbearable. Humidity sucks the freshness out of air and leaves behind warm moisture. Dust stirs and rises up into the air, covering already wilted plants. No clouds move across the blue-gray sky, and when rain falls, the damp smell of soil penetrates every nose. To a tourist, walking through modern apartment buildings, this is already too much. And then they turn around a corner and step into a completely different world, one of wilting houses made of cardboard and sheets of metal. One of children running freely, crippled people staring listlessly into space, and people who have lost all hope. One of crowded families and unsanitary conditions. And the tiredness from the weather turns into complete shock as the tourist is immediately assaulted by pleas of help.

Please, sir, will you buy this bracelet? It will look very nice on madam. Only 15 rupees. "Please, sir. No? How about 10 rupees? Five?"

"Please help me. God will bless you. Please, I need some money. My children need food. Please."

"Buy this toy. It is very fun for children. How about this coloring book?"
Hands outstretched, asking for help, surrounding the sightseer in every direction. They take in the traveler’s wealth, and their jealousy is reflected in their eyes. Their eyes. Pools of sorrow, scarred for life. Ashamed that they have been reduced to this state. Too many to help. Frightened, the tourist gives some money away, and when it’s not enough, shakes his or her head and turns back. Even as the alien world fades in the distance, the cries of its people fills the visitor’s ears, and guilt fills his or her heart. He or she knows that this brutal introduction to an unknown reality will not be the end, and the misery of these people won’t be transformed by spare change. The haunting image of a blind old women choking on sobs, trembling hand begging for help, pervades the tourist’s mind as he or she walks back into the modern world.

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