Two and a half years ago, during my first visit to India, I spent two days in the slums of Mumbai. Although I had a lot to learn about life in the slums, I did not have the chance to live in the slums, so I left with more questions than answers.
So now that I went back to India for the second time, I decided to go back to Mumbai and spend five days in Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world.
This experience opened my eyes in ways I could not have imagined, because I spent so much time with the local people who completely changed my view of their lives.
You see, like most outsiders, I had a very distorted view of the people in the slums. We grow up and hear stories about those who die on the streets, nobody can read and write, children have to sleep surrounded by carnivorous rats and so on.
There are, of course, many problems that need to be addressed, especially when it comes to sanitation. For example, sources say that in Dharavi there is an average of 1 toilet for a thousand people. Livestock generally also live in the same neighborhoods with people and that, combined with the fact that local water sources do not have cleaning facilities, sometimes causes the spread of infectious diseases.
However, people there are just like everywhere. They have their own dreams, goals, careers, thoughts and emotions. They are in no way different from the rest of us.
It does not matter where we come from. We are all equal. Some of us are born with golden spoons in our mouth, others are not. But that does not define us. What defines us is our pursuit of happiness, our compassion for others and our ability to adapt to the circumstances in which we find ourselves and make the best of them.
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Thanks to Danulis Macijauskas (for editing this video and to Urtė Laukaitytė for her feedback and advice on how to tell this story well.)