My time in India has been full of highs and lows, messages of hope and stories of desperation, however all the way through I have felt deeply honoured that the people I have met have been so open, honest and giving. This journey for me has been massive so as I write about my last full day of visiting people in their homes, I do so with a heart that feels like bursting with emotion, a mind so full of memories that struggle to piece them all together and feeling that I am ready to get back to the UK to spread a positive message and give these people hope that others are listening.
Today I visited two slums in the city of Bhopal, each of the slums were so vastly different, so I am again going to split it in to two parts and post one today and the second tomorrow. I know that when you read this blog update you will find some of it disturbing and difficult to deal with, but it is my main hope that you will be inspired and as hopeful as I am and see that at the end of the day, just like you and I the people of the slums are just looking for a better way of life, they just come from a very different place.
|View across the wasteland of the Shiv Nagar slum in Bhopal|
|Vidhya, kind hearted and|
welcoming, sadness is her eyes
|Collecting water amongst the waste!|
Alongside is an open drain stacked high either side
with household waste.
I struggled here to hold my emotions
I have repeated this so many times in my blog but it doesn't stop me being aware of how much I have taken for granted. Often when we think of such conditions we link back to the 17th century, however this is happening today, as I sit here writing this with my cup of coffee, using safe hygienic water, this is happening.
Once the water container was full we headed back to Vidhya's home, I carried the 30 litre stainless steel pot and was surprised again by just how heavy these things are. Once back at the house we took seats on a ridge outside and began to have a chat with Vidhya and some of her neighbours.
|The single cot where all 5|
family members sleep
just 4 foot by 6 foot in size
Vidhya had been without electricity for the last 5 days and was finding things tough, she has 2 girls at school and 1 son who does casual labour when he can find it, she was expressing that the lack of electricity meant that she was not able to feed her family properly due to not being able to grind wheat in order to make flour for bread, she had been living on a diet of rice. She also said that the school exams were coming up in March and with no lighting at night her daughters were not able to study, this worried her as she wants her children to gain an education, this may give them the chance at a better life.
We asked Vidhya how long had she lived in the slum... She told us that she and her husband Pappu had moved from a village 20 years ago in search of work in the city, there were no jobs outside the city and they needed an income. Vidhya explained that life here is tough but there really isn't much choice, 'in order to go to the toilet we have to walk out into an open communal area and go, this is embarrassing and unsafe, our only other option is to use the communal toilets but they charge 5 rupees per day per person and with a family of 5 we are not able to afford this (this is around 40 pence), the toilets are also dirty and smell.'
We were told of how truck drivers parked up at night alongside the wasteland next to the slums, they would drink and take drugs, the women would be threatened by these men who would verbally abuse them as they tried to discreetly go to the toilet. Sometimes the women would be physically attacked but because of the darkness they would not know if it was one of the people living in the slum that had done it or someone from the outside. Vidhya worried for her daughters safety and for their health.
|Vidhya and neighbours|
We felt that we had asked enough of Vidhya and she had been kind enough to tell us a lot, we invited Vidhya and neighbours to ask us some questions. The question that came back was powerful: "people come here all the time, especially around election time, they make promises and they never keep them! So what are you promising us?" I could see where this question had come from, time and time again these people had been let down, they had suffered greatly and now they had a bunch of foreign people sat in front of them asking questions about their water etc... I answered on behalf of our group "we are not making any promises, we are here to learn from you, to take your stories back to the UK and to raise awareness of what life is like in the slums. It is our hope but not our promise that people will listen and that we can raise international pressure on your government to spend money where it is needed" (I write this blog for this reason, so that I can raise awareness, so can I ask that you share this blog, help me raise awareness and give others the chance to improve their quality of life). The answer I gave pleased all, we were told by a neighbour that they thought we were like Krishna, sent by gods to help, I very quickly responded "we are just people from the UK, here to learn and do what we can". The thought that they could possibly liken us to their gods makes me feel really upset, I am really just someone that wants to help, I am a selfish person in many ways, I am full of imperfections and I do stupid things from time to time. Being linked to any god was too much for me.
|Water being collected from|
small holes in the water pipes
With the sudden activity the crowds began to grow, therefore it was felt that is would be better to cut the visit short and leave 30 minutes earlier.
|The small lanes between|
To find out how you could help, or find out more about WaterAid or even donate please click on the link below:
Please come back to follow my remaining journey in India.
|People wash their clothes on the streets|
|Open sewers surrounding the slums|
|The timely arrival of the clean up team!|