Moving on is a weird thing that requires a lot of courage. To be able to have faith that what’s ahead is better than what is now is a tad unsettling. Besides, telling yourself that you deserve this change or being ready for the future is something that is very easy to delay. We’re okay the way we are. Why change? If this question were allowed to hold its own, the world would be really different. And yet, most of us live in the quest of that illusory future where everything is dandy.
These and some other conversations were exchanged and unsaid at a tour of Dharavi that I took with friends. What is known to the whole world as a place where poverty thrives (thanks to the abominable film Slumdog Millionaire) was our destination for exploration. A group of boys run tours of Dharavi to dispel the notion that it’s nothing but a slum. Many tourists who come to Bombay take this 3 hour walk to explore the otherwise neglected part of the city. My friends and me saw this video and signed up for the tour.
Upfront, I can tell you that, among other things, this tour gives you perspective. It does dispel the notion that Dharavi is a lost cause and wipes that pity in your heart for the slum dwellers. It presents to you a self-sufficient unit that makes no apologies for its being. It shows you how education isn’t really necessary to build anything. It also reinforces everything you heard about capitalism. When you’ve moved from awe to awareness to awakening, then you finally ask that actualization question – why would anyone as self-sustained and equipped live like that? Why? And that’s when the conversation about change, moving on, and the pursuit for a better life comes into the picture.
A place that houses close to a million people and recycles 60% of Bombay’s plastic waste, produces aluminium, recycles cardboard and makes them from elephant dung, manufactures soap, dyes cloth in all possible colours, cleans up paint cans for the paint giants, manufactures bags, does large-scale embroidery, generates close to a billion dollars as annual income, has churches, mosques, temples, schools, colleges, hospitals, and even separate industrial and residential units is touted to the country, and even the world, as one of the world’s largest slums. And yet. And yet.
The fact that it’s a contained system amazes me, it does. That I come back with such an outlook proves that the money I spent on the tour is totally worth it. But for me, it’s just sparked a completely tangential stream of thought. (And it might sound existential, but please bear with me.) Not all of us have been bestowed with a monumental purpose in life. By monumental I mean that not all of us can be Steve Jobs or equivalent. And I say this because of a conversation I had with a friend just before the tour about how all of us are here to excel at something. No, we’re not. Most of us will die will pretty plain lives that were extra-ordinary to us in ways so visceral that they might go unnoticed to the world when zoomed out. But the need to go out there and find our purpose and then, if we’re lucky to find it, live our lives to fulfil the purpose is a worthy driving factor. But what if you don’t find it? What if you’re still plain Jane? And if you do find it, what if you can’t live it? If you do live it, what if you don’t like it? What then?