Last summer I spent a few weeks in Kathputli Colony Delhi, interviewing and talking to its people. This 50 odd year old “slum” in West Delhi is one of the first sites for in-situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers being initiated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). To say that Kathputli has taken over my thoughts would not be an understatement. As I sit here trying to work out the framework for a paper on the research that we carried out there, I can’t help but think how far removed this is from the lives of the people at Kathputli. Today someone asked me “What is your aim in writing about this? Are you hoping to change policy?” and my answer was “yes, of course”. But immediately a thought popped up in my head- “This is not going to change their lives or perceptions of others! Kathputli might not be there when you go there this summer”. When we were in Kathputli people would often say “You are educated and you live in Amrikaa. Please do something. Please talk to the DDA and convince them not to move us!”. Even then, I used to feel unable to convince them of how, like them, I too was helpless. I guess I am cynical, you see there is an ingrained cynicism in us Indians, that I am unable to let go of. A cynicism that keeps telling me that nothing is going to change, that I am but a mere Ph.D. student. I am no big mover and shaker! I don’t know any politicians, or bureaucrats. I also feel like a hypocrite- for what is going to change if I choose to live in the US and write about Kathputli from thousands of miles away, while the people of Kathputli face the fear of eviction every day. Then I remind myself that we all have a path, and this is mine. At this time, my path has led me to a place where my job is bring this to the notice of the movers and shakers.
And as I go back to the framework, I also thought I’d share a few pictures from Kathputli. I ended up with more that 500 pictures of the children there. It seemed like the first word these kids learnt was “photo”. They would grab at me, not let go till I promised to take their pictures with their friends, on their own, with their mom or dog. They have beautiful smiles like all children!