Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So should I write to complain against this slum?

To complain or not to complain. That's the question. It's this small slum that's taking shape in near my house. It's like a boil, a wart, a carbuncle, whatever. Today I saw water around, a lump of shit too. No, really. Tomorrow I don't know what. Women crowded around wooden fires cooking. Firewood is kept neatly in temporary enclosures of wood driven into the earth. The plastic is wet from the rain and the earth is a dark brown from wet soil. A man sits brushing his teeth with brush and paste. The advertising industry has made toothpaste reach these people. I am glad. A few men are washing the soapy suds standing in the open.

I see all this near my house. I think of their poverty and feel pity. But I can't see a slum just pullulating out of nothing near my house, near the playground where my son plays. I can't see the eyesore on my way to my morning walk. Should I complain? They seem harmless. But every first venture would seem thus – harmless. If Bombay had rooted out slums at the instant they took root, it would have been slumless. What has driven up property prices in Bombay is the redevelopment of slums. Or, that's what I feel. It's Keynesian Law in reverse. Strangely, with supply price increases. With redevelopment came the spectre of more migrant labourers and they again created slums on the empty lands of Dharavi and Mankhurd. See Mankhurd for yourselves. The slums are spreading and encroaching into the marshes and the salt pans.

Should I complain and root out this ugly settlement and put these people out of a home? They are poor and exploited but they don't have a right to make a slum near my house. I am in two minds, in a dilemma. I have done whatever I could for the locality: written letters to the corporation to improve roads, improve lighting, improve water supply, written to the post master to introduce postal delivery, so on and so forth, because that is what I do, i.e., write. I always keep envelopes at home and postage stamps ready in my wallet for the letters I write. Writing a letter doesn't take a long time for me. It's an activity I like. If it brings results, so much the better. I have written to the railways to improve rail services. I write to the minister with copies to their ministries and to the general managers. So, eventually – or, so I think – some action is taken. I think a writer by nature is an activist because he/she can write. This isn't much activism, but some activity of the garden variety, the elementary type.

So should I write to complain against this slum?

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