English on the Internet - English Magazine

A picture of poverty

November 28, 1999
Slums in India

After nearly an hour of being on the road, the vehicle seemed to have moved just about a mile amongst the clogged traffic. With the window pulled down, I sat almost motionless in the face of pollution and poverty.

 My trip to Mumbai (Bombay), India a few summers back has left a track of memories imprinted in my mind. It had struck me bad this time. I felt my eyes brimming with tears; not from the dust, but by surveying the scene along the road. A scene of naked kids running and screaming, crying and laughing. They lived as a huge extended family crowding roadsides with shelters made of cloth. The sense of hunger filled the air and made it heavier.

It was impossible to turn away from such a sight. Of course I had seen this before. But it was different this time, probably because I had a better and deeper comprehension concerning the different rhythms of life.

In my view, each one of us creates our own music or life. And the music I detected amongst these underprivileged, contained a note of sweet, and not to mention bitter frustration. But it was honestly wonderful to see their world where discrimination was almost non-existent. They all beg for scraps of food and a rupee or two. They sleep on the same dirt floor and wear rags on their impoverished bodies. They lay victim to Mother Nature's turmoils. One downpour of the monsoons or one gush of harsh wind can wipe out their shelters. Just as I remained lost in my thoughts, I noticed an outstretched hand come in through the window. I gave her enough for a meal and got her blessings in return.

When I finally got home, I couldn't get my mind to focus on anything else. I couldn't get over what I had just sensed and seen. I realized so much. How fortunate we are to live amongst such comforts and luxuries. And yet we probably complain more often of life's twists and turns than they do. We probably discriminate against others when it's not even out right to. 

I consider myself privileged to have seen this other side of life, something unusual on many other parts of the world. There is poverty everywhere in the world, but very few countries have it as hideous as what I saw in India. 

I'll carry these memories with me everywhere I may go. Everyday has a lesson attached to itself. I wish we all could draw the essence out of each one to make our lives more worthwhile.

If you are moved by this touching reality in certain parts of the world, you can help someone. I wanted to give something to the poor and so I’ve sponsored a child (it’s been a year. I stopped and now have restarted my sponsorship with the same child) through an organization for a very small fee.

If you want to do the same, look for websites of relief organizations or email me at: malihas@hotmail.com 
by Maliha Suleman - studying journalism at The Texas Christian University in USA

© November 1999 English on the Internet www.aj.cz