Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A roofless family

In India many people in the big cities are what is called roofless.
They live on the pavement without many possessions.
It is a dramatic situation created by poverty.

The team of “The most beautiful people in the world” had decided to see if roofless people could also be incorporated in the project.
The objective was to meet roofless people, talk to them and possibly document them.

This turned out to be a very difficult thing to do.
It is simply impossible to just go to them and ask them questions.
That is a very dangerous and hopeless thing to do.
Hence, it became a matter of finding the right contacts.
Persons having connections and expertise with the roofless people.
This was a process of almost two weeks.
And eventually some friendly Indians introduced the team to a family that lived on the pavement of a busy street corner.
Meeting this family was a deep shock.
On former trips to India and Bangladesh families had been seen bivouacking on the sides of the street.
Seen from a rickshaw or a taxi.
But now it was a personal meeting with a woman who lived with her 4 children and her husband under a rudimentary tarpaulin as a roof simply sleeping on a mat on the pavement.
This is their home.
Where heavy traffic passes by day and night including big city buses.
That crashed to death one of the children one year ago.

But the family continues to live there unable to escape out of their desperate situation.

The photo session had to be short.
If a white man makes pictures in a Mumbai street, immediately hundreds of curious people gather around him.
Attracting the corrupt police that will see an opportunity to make legal trouble and money.

Another issue was if and how to honour the family for their participation.
The accompanying Indian staff suggested buying a bag with biscuits and sweets that they were donating to the family.
To avoid the white man having to give it that would result in hundreds of beggars going after him.
And only biscuits and sweets to avoid fighting among the roofless people in case valuables were given like food and milk.

Was this meeting the roofless family and documenting them a pleasant experience?
It is so fundamentally wrong and unjustifiable for people to have to live in their way, that one can only become very sad.

Fervent and loyal blog readers may be interested why the woman of this roofless family claimed to be beautiful.
This is what Vaishali Mangulal Singh had to say:

“I am illiterate and I am from a poor family but then I work hard to make my children go to school.”


Pictures on this posting by © Marjolein van Veen 2008.



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