Photo credit and news story
Day 1: Landed Mumbai at 1:30am Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. We are 13.5 hours ahead of Pacific time.
It’s not like I wasn’t expecting it, but still, seeing the shantytown slums just outside the Mumbai airport was an assault to all my senses, even in the middle of the night. That people live in such horrific conditions, such squalor– that children live there, only steps from the shiny, modern architectural wonder that is the Mumbai airport—well, if you’ve read Katherine Boo’s book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, you’ll know what I mean and if you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Photo credit and blog post
We are the epitome of fat, privileged Americans on a luxury tour, I don’t deny it. And here’s another truth: to a great extent, I want to be insulated from disgusting sanitary conditions, children in rags with no future, the evidence of a government run entirely on corruption. I know it exists. I probably know more about it than most Americans. But I’m helpless and that makes my heart hurt.
The airport slums are supposed to come down and the families who live there are being relocated to flats. A story in the Times of India today said that sanitary and health conditions in the flats are even worse than in the slums. How is that possible? How could there be no way to improve things for these poor people?
How? Corruption. Graft.
By the way, this is just one slum in Mumbai, a city with a population of 20 million. It’s unimaginable.
This morning the owner of the airport transportation company we use picked us up for our run to SFO. He’s from India and a successful entrepreneur. We’ve known him for several years and know that he goes back to India to visit family annually. I can’t help but wonder how he squares what he sees there with the vast wealth and superior living conditions in Silicon Valley. What does he really think?
He did have some advice for us: Drink only bottled water and be careful about pickpockets at the Pushkar Camel Fair. Be careful about the food.
(As we prepared to land, M. said, “Let’s see if I’ve got this right. We should be ok if we eat and drink nothing and never go out on the street, right?”)
Another story in the Times of India said that a 77-year-old woman was walking to church in Mumbai and a thief ran by and ripped gold earrings out of her earlobes. There was also much coverage of the abuse of women by fathers, husbands and brothers. Mutilation. Scarring. Attacks.
Yes, things like that happen everywhere.
What kind of country is this? I ask myself. I hope to have my own answer 18 days from now.
If you want to know more about the slums near the airport, click the photo credit for the story that goes along with it. Actually, click on both credits.