Affluent kids go to McDonald's and KFC for their share of junk food.
In the slums, where the availability of Rs 10 decides whether dinner will be just daal-chawal or daal-chawal-papad, such luxuries cannot be afforded.
That's not to say that the kids in the slums don't have options. I discovered some of these while teaching English to the kids, and some while living in the slum.
There is malai, which is an expensive habit to sustain. Four to five tiny pieces of this sweet wrapped in a leaf cost almost Rs 8. My students were more than eager to share it with me.
Then there is puri-bhaji - 8 tiny pieces of puri and some potato bhaji for Rs 10. This had become an-almost regular part of my breakfast towards the end of the slum stay. And it was delicious!
There is the coloured chooran - 4 sticks for Rs 2. My students would get them for me everyday. Saying 'no thank you' resulted in disheartened sighs and long faces. I soon learned to say yes to one student per day, and anyone else who came up to me with it was asked to save it and give it to me the next day. Then the race would begin the next day, and I would be reminded of promises I had made to take the chooran from X or Y. At the end of every class, they would ask me to stick out my tongue to see if it had turned blue or pink from the chooran. I had never quite interacted with kids in this manner, and much to my amusement, I saw that I enjoyed it.
The most well loved and abundant item however, is this strange concoction called "Chinese Bhel". It is a mixture of shredded cabbage, fried and crunchy 'sev' and the slum version of the Schezwan sauce. It is often mixed with manchurian balls. Given Bombay's reputation for forging strange food combinations (like misal-pav!) I was not surprised, but was definitely revolted by the idea and resisted eating it for the longest time. Then Poonam bought a bowl for Rs 5 one day, and I realized that I cannot go through the slum experience without giving it a shot. So I dug in. And wrote it off. But I found myself going in for a second spoonful just minutes later. And even after leaving the slum, I have to admit, I have bought it on two occasions of my own accord.
The most touching gesture was that all these kids who bought these items out of their daily pocket money of Rs 5 were dying to share it with me.