I had been in Mumbai for one week. In my purse, at one time, there was:
‘Waiting for tomorrow: a study of four groups of vulnerable migrant children in the city of Bombay 1989-90’ Sponsored by UNICEF, commissioned by the department of social welfare, government of Maharashtra.
A script for Tasty Dish, a play about a fat Indian guy and the gold digger woman who’s trying to fatten him up enough to kill him.
A dupatta, to cover my chest at a visit to the construction site school.
Lip gloss and powder, for a later meeting with a casting person.
Keys to my new apartment: a shared home with only girls.
A cell phone with a Mumbai sim card and a bunch of numbers of people I barely know.
After visiting the Mumbai Mobile Creche centres, I reported back to the main office in Colaba. There, I said with my mouth that I hadn’t been surprised: that I had seen children in similar situations in Varanasi, and therefore wasn’t shocked that people live in the way the do.
I was not surprised, but wasn’t unaffected. In Varanasi, I was only surrounded by people of a certain socio-economic status. There was very little range: most were simply poor, and had to make do with less, but generally lived out their lives as well as they could within their circumstances. I also lived more simply, and was well in that.
In Mumbai, the spectrum is enormous and staggering: the world’s absolute richest and very poorest both call this city their home. And I’m making friends with people from both sides, ragged kids and groomed socialites.
Equally engrossed with, interested in and repulsed by the people of both sides, I run back and forth and around and don’t know what to do. The construction worker kids seem so poor, so desperate, so animal, so desperate, so cheated.
The same could be said about the wealthy partygoers: they are poor in heart, animal in their problem solving and conflict resolution, desperate for something more meaningful and real, cheated out of the traditional family and community and settling for virtual acquaintances.
People can be lacking in so many different ways. I feel so rich to be untouched by physical poverty, and to have the impression of being well loved and cared for. I would like to be able to move back and forth between the rich and the poor gracefully, but that will take some time.