From the Vault: Thoughts on Living in Bombay 1
I am on the train waiting for it to get its panties in a bunch and just move already.
I remember when I returned from India in 2010, I was perpetually asked the inevitable question: How was it? The water, did you drink it? The beggars, are they everywhere? Is it hot? Did you eat street food? Is it colorful? What of the garbage?
Yes yes yes yes yes yes and yes.
I want to write for a minute about these people. Acknowledge them, the ones who ask for money. At least here in Bombay. Many of them, in some way, are not physically whole. Whether they were born this way or made this way -- either is a realistic option. Missing limbs. Arms twisted behind bodies. Shiny, seared, starburst-shaped skin stretched from the clavicle to the chin. Why are so many people burnt in the same place? I don't want to know the answer, though I am afraid that I do. It is revolting in the truest sense of the word.
I say "no" to nearly everyone who asks me for money. I know the assumption is that because I have fair skin and light eyes, I will give. But I don't. I turn nearly everyone away. Children or acid burn victims or people crawling on their hands and atrophied legs. Why am I so hard?
Why I am so hard:
I don't want to support this system. I don't want to give money to a child, who will then pass it to some dirty m*therf*cker, some subpar-though-apparently-human (where is my forgiveness?) lord pimp who will just use it to expand his grotesque empire. I believe it will empower no one and will instead keep people on the street. I always dread going to Khar station, for instance. Khar West is a pretty fancy shmancy neighborhood, and its train station is just one stop up from Bandra, my own stop on the train. Yet at night, the ticket counter lobby at Khar transforms into a community sleeping room for what I imagine to be three or four generations of one family. And I, like many people, purchase my ticket and quietly slip past them, on my way to the comfortable bed that I share with my love. This is not a self-guilting mechanism. It is truth.
I am a teacher by trade -- yet at the end of my life, I will say that I walked past children who asked me for help. I told them "no." This is not something that has come naturally for me. It is something that I've trained myself to do. I do it because I believe there are more effective ways to help people who live on Bombay's streets. Yet, it still means that I have declined a child who has asked me for help.
If you're interested in learning about a couple of cool projects aimed at empowering people so that they might get off the street, please contact me. I think this is the most reliable and effective way to help.
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