Saturday, April 11, 2009

INDIA: Peter Bil'ak

On the way back to Europe, we had dinner at Indigo, Mumbai’s fine fusion of European and Indian cuisine. Just ten minutes later we were taking a taxi to the airport, and instead of the usual Mumbai marine drive, the driver took the Dharavi route because of the congested traffic. Minutes after leaving Colaba, the cosmopolitan mix of cultures, we are sucked into Asia’s largest slums. We stare out of the window and have difficulties digesting our dinner. Nothing could create a bigger contrast to the sophisticated atmosphere of the restaurant, where elegantly dressed Indians mix with European expats and tourists. From just outside the car we were offered an extremely disturbing look at the other reality of today’s India, alarming poverty and overpopulation. We had seen poor suburbs of Mumbai before, but the hour long drive through the slums was overpowering. The driver sped up, trying to spare us the sight, almost hitting the kids living in the tiny makeshift houses built on the road. The ride combined with the troubling scenery made me feel physically unwell. All the impressions of India came together, the new opportunities, the fast growing economy, the reality of the slums, the kindness of people, the eagerness to improve, and the resignation to fate. India is a country where all these contrasts coexist and if you see only one part it simply means that you ignored the others.

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