This post has nothing to do with photography but its a subject very close to my heart and important for me to tell people about.
3 years ago I travelled to India.
I’d heard about the culture, the people, the history and the beauty of the country. I also knew many people in India are very poor.
But nothing prepared me for what I saw…
India is an assault on almost all your senses, the constant noise, the constant sounds of people and traffic, the smells, and there are things happening everywhere you look. It can become really draining, very quickly.
India is a country virtually of two extremes… the very rich and the very poor. For example property in Mumbai is amongst the worlds most expensive and Mumbai also has India’s largest slum with 1 million people living in 1 square mile.
Due to India’s caste system, people live in certain areas, work in certain jobs and will marry someone within their own caste level. The very bottom of the caste system are the scavengers or untouchables, so called because it is believed that if you touch them you will become polluted, ill and diseased. They are outcasts of society. Untouchables, generally clean the streets this includes clearing human excrement “as half of the population does not have access to a toilet) they earn as little as 6 euros a month (to my American friends that’s about $10)!!
Prior to my last trip to India, I hadn’t seen Slumdog Millionaire, I was told that it could put me off going.
I’ve recently seen the film, one thing really affected me… While waiting at Agra train station we were speaking with a wealthy, well education Indian man. A little girl (she must have been 4 or 5 years old), approached, her clothes, her hair and her skin all had the same grey dirty colour. Her hair was matted together. She simply looked up and held out her hand.
I’d read that many children are run by gangs and have any money taken off them, so I decided to buy her some food as there was a pakora stand near by, turning to the Indian man, I asked him to tell her I would buy her some food, his reply rendered me speechless…
“Why do you bother with such people? begging is illegal in India”
I looked at him in shock and walked away to get some food.
In the film there is a small girl, she reminded me of the girl at Agra a lot and make me think… where is she now? Is she still living on the street? has she been sold? Kidnapped? Trafficked?
The answer to these questions I will never know, and if I think too long on them it upsets me.
During my trip I also experienced they incredible generosity of the Indian people. Visiting farms where people hardly had enough to feed themselves, we were offered water and some sort of fried bread. I was taken by our rickshaw driver to meet with his family and given chai (a sweet milky tea) to drink.
I will be travelling to back to India and in particular to the city of Jaipur. Due to the tourist industry, the city of Jaipur has rapidly expanded as people try to earn a living from the money tourists bring. Many families from out-with the city send their children to Jaipur, in hope that they find a better life. Children as young as 4 years old arrive alone at Jaipur’s train station regularly, most don’t leave the train station and end up living there. Jaipur has an estimated 1 Million children living on the streets or in slums.
A charity I support and plan to visit is called I-India, they were featured on the BBC television programme “India on four wheels”. I-India are a charity which has many different projects all with the aim of helping street children. Please watch the video below. They run a School on Wheels bus which travels to street children to provide them with a basic education, a skills centre, a children’s home, a Kitchen feeding 1,000 children daily, a shower bus, an ambulance and a Child Line service.
To support I-India please visit http://www.i-indiaonline.com/