RICH & POOR
We have two worlds in India. These two worlds live side by side, sometimes even on the same street. The rich and the poor. The houses and the slums.
Today, we are looking at two children in Mumbai; Santosh and Subash. Mumbai is one of the biggest cities in the world! 20 million people make their home somewhere in this mega city. Santosh(10) lives in a slum, and Subash(11) lives in a nice new apartment.
We are putting the two boys’ domestic lives side by side. Let’s look at some of their main activities:
Santosh wakes up at 6.30 and goes outside to help his mother collect water at the local well. There’s he draws up water with a bucket. Santosh is not the only one there. A dozen other boys and three men are also washing and waiting. As soon as Santosh gets his bucket load of not-so-clean well water, he squats down, fills up a plastic dipper with water, and pours it over his head and body. The water is cold, but it wakes him up, and his friends are always there for a joke and a chat.
6.50am. Subash opens his eyes and blinks. He has just 20 minutes to look through his books before his elder sister Hema is out of the bathroom. She has a job as a telephone operator. When the bathroom is empty (finally!), Subash slips in, presses the geyser button, and enjoys his hot shower. He hears his mom moving vessels in the kitchen and preparing breakfast. ‘I hope it’s not rice cakes again’, Santosh thinks to himself. He would rather have a dosa!
It’s just mom and dad tonight. Hema his sister is out. What did the maid cook for dinner? Subash lifts the lid off the ceramic vessel. Ahh! He loves chicken. Especially in a good curry with plenty chapattis (wheat pancakes). There is a spicy side dish of fried vegetables on the dinner table, plus cold water and yoghurt to cool the tongue. Bring it on! An ever hungry Subash takes his second serving of curry with rice. Then he feels sleepy…
The family is seated on the floor, and Santosh joins them a few minutes late. The sounds of community life seep through the iron roof. The barking of dogs, bollywood songs from a nearby radio, and the insistent honking from the nearby traffic.
It’s a simple dinner tonight. A simple dinner every night. Except when there’s a wedding or festival. Mother has carried the dal (lentil soup) from the kerosene stove in the corner, and serves it from the pan. The rice was already cooling off, but the hot dal quickly warms it.
‘Hey Santosh! Come on!’ It’s Santosh’s friend Balu. Santosh glances at his mother, and runs out of the shack. His friends have been playing non-stop in the nearby open space. The players may take turns, but the game must continue. The ground is marked with stones, the wicket is just a wooden stick, and the bat is old and chipped. But the boys don’t even notice. As far as they are concerned, they are playing in a stadium, and the crowds are cheering.
Subash is in his room. There’s just nothing on TV at this time. ‘Might as well see what level I can reach on this new game’ Subash takes his play station out of the drawer and before long he’s lost in the game. When dad finally gets off the computer he will check which of his friends are online or log on to RunScape. ‘Hey dad! Hurry up please!’
Santosh has finished his game of cricket. He is going over his books. Mathematics. The lights are off, and just a single bulb lights up the open textbook on the floor.
Subash, five miles down the road in his 5th floor apartment, is doing his geometry at the dinner table. He nibbles on some spicy cashew nuts and sips his sprite. It’s too hot to concentrate. ‘Can I switch the AC on, mom?’ ‘Yes, but only for 15 minutes ok?’
‘I’m done for the night‘, says Santosh. He feels proud of himself. His mom and dad and three siblings have already gone to bed. Santosh never wonders how all six of them fit in this space of 9 by 12 feet. Mom and dad are on the bed, and him and his brothers and sister are on roll-out mattresses on the floor. His bed is spread! He flops down and within two minutes he’s fast asleep.
Subash forgot to turn his bed lamp off. He blinks. His alarm clock shows midnight. He must have been asleep for a few hours at least. He quickly switches the lamp off, and pulls the curtains closed. ‘That’s why I woke up! The fan’s too low‘, he says as he steps into bed. With his right hand he changes the fan speed to 4, turns onto his side, and drops off to sleep.