My time in India was spent only in Bombay. It is both shocking and awe inspiring to see a city such as Bombay with its metropolitan high-rises juxtaposed with fishing slums and extreme poverty evident on the streets at the base of these multi million dollar skyscrapers. I noted while looking at a book of aerial photos of Bombay, that one could be tricked to believe that, although India is a third world country, this huge city is somehow wealthy. Yes, parts of it are extremely wealthy, but take one turn off of a major highway and you are in the middle of a completely different world. In fact the minute you stop, a 7 year old girl, barefoot and gaunt, holding her naked, bone-thin 2 year old brother on her hip, will ask you for money or food. In fact this happens so often, that to give to each and every one of these needy children and adults on a daily basis would take ones monthly time and budget. So to those that say, “Why not just send the money you raised to the people?” I say, “It wouldn’t be enough.” and “Then what?” With the money that was donated to this cause and expedition we were able to reach nearly two thousand children and adults in Bombay. And those that went on to the Andaman Islands reached even more. What we gave them at each center in Bombay was a performance and group play for a short period of time, but our success is the joy that will stay with these children and adults for much, much longer.
I spoke of the skyscrapers that make up one view of Bombay. Bombay is growing rapidly and more of these high-rises are being built everyday. Migrant workers come from villages in neighboring states and bring their whole lives and families to make a living working on these construction sites. They make their “shanty” homes in the slums of the city out of scraps of metal, wood, tarps and anything else that can be found. Mobile Creches, the organization that we mainly worked with, provides the children of these workers with daycare, education and community. If it were not for these centers one, two, three year olds would be on their own for more than 12 hours of the day. Ultimately children around the ages of nine and ten become surrogate mothers and fathers to these children, taking on the stresses of an adult at an age that most of us hadn’t a care in the world and our main stress was which toy to buy, or what snack to eat after school.
These centers that we performed at are run by the most amazing women who do everything they can to make sure these children get an education so that they can have a better life than their parents have had to. One could think that to do this work is to go in and give respite to people who have horrible lives. While that is part of it I suppose, I have a different view of it now. I feel now that what we did was to go in and support, applaud what is being done. Somehow saying, you are on the right track, there is hope, don’t ever stop learning and striving for more, but never forget to relish what it is these places provide for you – community. To be a part of these mini communities for even a short period has left me with a feeling of great admiration and joy. I have never met more kind hearted, giving and generous people. With every handshake, laugh or smile I found it hard to believe that a people this happy could live in such poverty. I cannot feel sorry for them because somehow they have much more than me, joy that comes from them and not from the comfort that surrounds them. Maybe we saw the best of them, and I can’t even begin to imagine how many hardships even the youngest of them has experienced. I hate to sound as if I can only reflect on what I have taken for myself through this experience, but the effect it had me is still so strong even months later that
I yearn to be back so that I can give even the littlest bit of this joy back to the children in India, especially the other millions of slum kids, in Bombay-just Bombay, that we weren’t able to meet and perform for. I thank all who gave to this project, but I also thank you on behalf of all of the truly beautifulpeople we met who I know, if given the chance, would shake your hand for a very long time, and smile at you with true joy.