It has been nearly 8 months since I first walked through the slum area of Lakhtokia. I had seen pictures of massive slums, this is one is small by comparison to the ones that pop up in major cities like Mumbai. Despite its small size, I was shocked at how many people could live in one space. I remember feeling almost like I was invading their privacy because I was so out of place and they live their lives in the open. I tried not to gawk but I was estimating how many children there were and trying to comprehend what I was seeing. Maybe it is because I have been there now so many times, their homes so clear in my head that I forget that not everyone knows or can visualize what we speak of when we use the word 'slum.' I guess my best description with words is that slum homes are made of other people's discarded materials. Some with tarps, cardboard maybe even some old metal siding. They are easily broken down, burnt and moveable if needed quickly (the government here randomly decides to raze slum areas, leaving the families without homes and no alternative place to go) Some have been built behind fencing that was there for the train tracks and they even form little alleyways and rows, it is actually quite organized when you take a walk through the insides of the rows.
Backside of two rows of homes
Inside a typical slum home
One of the downfalls of the otherwise awesome leaf plates is that they tend to leak a bit. The manager of the temple where we serve the food isn't a fan of this and tried to get us to go back to the aluminum containers. I say tried because it wasn't something I could really budge on so instead the solution is that the kids cannot sit on the temple grounds to eat therefore reducing the mess. I was walking sweet Mirna back to her home yesterday (the wee ones struggle with the big plates) when I was just washed with momentary sadness. What do they do when it rains? What if they fall ill with cholera or dysentery, unable to escape the monsoon water and the diseases it can carry? How do they sleep at night? What would they think if they saw my home? I don't know the answers to all of these questions but I know we have an awesome group of pediatricians who would treat their illness. We have friendship and time together rain or shine. This is their home, it is what they know, it is where they are comfortable. So instead of getting totally lost in the sadness, I took a moment to sit Mirna down inside the four cardboard walls where she lives, placed her food on the makeshift table and became overwhelmed with thankfulness at being so welcome inside these homes.