On a typical morning in the over-crowded slum of Annawadi located next to the Mumbai airport, the people wake early to begin another day of trying to secure their existence. Those with homes – extremely small, tenuous constructions of something once resembling fabric or cardboard – are thankful they have any shelter at all.
Even better, they have a space they can rent to people less fortunate than themselves. Every square foot is a potential source of income, and income dictates how much food and safety will be had that day. With an estimated six out of every three thousand slum dwellers employed permanently, security is in short supply. Many find their income from garbage cans, scavenging the wasted excess of airplane travelers and five-star hotel dwellers for recyclables to sell.
Abdul rose with minimal whining, since the only whining his mother tolerated was her own. Besides, this was the gentle-going hour in which he hated Annawadi least. The pale sun lent the sewage lake a sparkling silver case, and the parrots nesting at the far side of the lake could still be heard over the jets. Outside his neighbors’ huts, some held together by duct tape and rope, damp rags were discreetly freshening bodies. Children in school-uniform neckties were hauling pots of water from the public taps. A languid line extended from an orange concrete block of public toilets. Even goats’ eyes were heavy with sleep. It was the moment of the intimate and the familial…. (Behind the Beautiful Forevers, p4)
This morning I looked out my window at green grass and flowers, a whippoorwill calling from the open field up the road. I looked out a real glass window that opens to let in the cool breeze and closes tight against the rain and wind. I ran purified water inside my house from a tap I share with no one other than my husband inside our 1200 square foot house built of wood and vinyl siding and brick. A house artificially cooled in the summer and heated in the winter. I glanced at my Master’s degree on the wall and the pictures of my children who are grown, healthy, and employed at jobs that don’t require them to even remotely go near a sewage lake or reach into cans of garbage with their bare hands.
If I could, I would ask God why. Why do the people of Annawadi suffer without relief? Why am I living in riches they could only dream of? Why was I born into clean food and fresh water? Why am I allowed to enjoy comfort while others starve and thirst? Why? Because I don’t get it. I don’t get any of it.