The Mobiustrip

The Mobiustrip

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Building as a Learning Aid

My first shot at "Building as a Learning Aid" (or BALA) project in the Fellowship after a year and a half of refusing to get out of bed on Sundays.

At the hugeeeeee municipal school in Mumbra where one building houses 13 schools, 6500 kids, but does not having any drinking water facility.

Pioneered by one of our program leaders - Husein - in Mumbai's municipal schools when he was a Fellow, BALA helps to make schools colourful and vibrant so that kids don't feel like they are not privileged enough to get the 'private school feel' like others who can afford it. The idea struck Husein when one of the children in these schools told him how his school was not as pretty as other private ones, and that demotivated him from coming to school.

What happened next went on to make Husein a true 'Human of Bombay' - here is his story - and it felt great to be a small part of this journey.

BALA is not just used for aesthetic purposes, but also to help children learn through pictures like science diagrams, multiplication tables, clocks and alphabets drawn on the walls, such that they get repeated exposure to these on a daily basis.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Pets of the Poor

Of the many things that fascinate me about slum life, this one makes it to the top 3 - slum dwellers of Bombay keeping pet animals in their 10 by 10 rooms. In this case, in their makeshift houses by the highway.

The highway kids had always been especially interesting. We had heard of how some parents take the kids to the nearby public washrooms and get them ready for school. Today we learnt about the same, firsthand.

This lot has access to an AC washroom which charges Rs 15 for taking a bath and Rs 5 for using the toilet. This family of 7, like so many others who live alongside them, keeps their belongings in the 'houses' by the road, and sleepson the footpaths when it doesn't rain, or under the bridges when it does. When it is cold, they share 3 blankets between the 7 of them. Two nights back the 20-year old son got into a fit of rage and 'broke down' their house. The 14 year old in the house was collecting their belongings so that the sole earning member could come 'home' and rebuild it.
In the midst of all this, a family car pulled up and started to hand out clothes. Everyone ran and snatched whatever they could. "New clothes" for tomorrow's Ganpati Visarjan festivities.

And then one by one they introduced us to their pets. A 6-year-old ran into her 'house' and brought out a one month old puppy and the packet of milk it drinks. The little one here obliged us with a picture with their family dog. "He eats with us everyday. When we make daal and rice, we give it to him too."

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The 'posh' brothel

The 'posh' Bombay brothel, Grant Road, Mumbai.

A 'gharwali' told us how her husband had left the house when she was pregnant with their third child, and never returned. She still wears the sindoor. After quitting a job as a housemaid because she couldn't earn enough to give her kids a good education, she started working as a bar dancer. But her hips gave away. So she turned to prostitution.
5 years in, a client told her to stop 'this business' and bought her a house where she could run her own brothel. "I was lucky to be able to get out of it after 5 years." she said.
"Do your kids know what you do?" we asked.
"I am sure they do. I have barely studied, yet I am earning so much in Bombay. What could I be doing here? But they don't want to hurt me, so they never ask."

"How old are the youngest people who come here?" we inquired.
"We don't take in very young guys. Then it feels like we are sleeping with our own sons. We are mothers after all." was the chilling response.

Another sex worker recounted the tale of how she was brought to Bombay at the age of 14 under the pretext of housework, and 'sold'.
"I fell in love with a client and married him. When I was pregnant with his child, he called me a 'randi' and said that it might be the child of one of my other clients. He would just take my money and go sleep with other prostitutes. Whn I found out, I aborted the 7-month old baby and left him. I don't trust men anymore.", she said.

Those of us who got such personal stories in less than an hour of conversation did so because of local language, which can be such a unifier.
"Where are you from?", I asked.
"Calcutta." she said.
"Bangali?" I smiled.
"Tumi o? (You too?). Will you have tea?" she asked.
You learn when you are not supposed to say no.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Clay and Creativity

Nag Panchami special - They might come from 10x10 one room homes, but all they need is a little mud to show how creative they are. And they will also give you homemade Puran Poli if you go to their homes today :)

Friday, 20 March 2015

First picture with the school kids

Almost been a year, and finally my first picture WITH the kids. This was after I was dragged into the class for pre-Gudi Padwa celebrations and force-fed bhel that they made and a pretty expensive cookie that they just had to share with me.

This lot helped me realize how much I love to teach kids. Sohail - the one on whose head my hand is - was one of my favourites who knew Honey Singh's Blue Eyes by heart but went Moo for the goat in Old MacDonald's farm.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

"3 rupees for a ticket"

Aahad Qadri, Age 9.

Part of the first group of students who helped me realize that I am actually not as bad around kids as I thought I was.
Today while taking me to his slum he importantly informed me that the ferry would charge 3 rupees for the ticket.
"Ruko main deta hoon!" ("Wait! I will pay!")
And he whipped out 60% of his precious pocket money which he was saving for Chinese bhel.

At Bombay's Madh Island - the de-glam side of it.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Happy Meal conversations

Exchanging diwali tales of riding escalators at the stations, buying hairclips on the train, eating homemade shakarpara, getting gifts of fairies and dolls, and deciding that the AC in the metro is too cold - all this over bowls of daal chawal and personal stashes of jaljeera during the midday meal at the municipal school in a Bombay slum.