Monday, August 01, 2005

Itchy sort of satisfaction

Yesterday I visited a slum nearby. Homes with thatched roofs, exposed brick walls and cowsheds attached. The people I spoke to seemed content. They were wage labourers who had migrated here from other parts of Orissa. Some owned land in their villages which other family members were taking care of now. Almost everyone returned to their district every month to hand over whatever small surplus they could make in their time away from their village. It’s not an easy lifestyle, but they manage. They settle for it.
Just like they settle for lesser lives as lesser citizens.

We went to oversee the construction of a toilet for them. The women’s group said they’d like to be in charge. I suggested making it a pay and use toilet for people other than those living in the slum. So the women could use the small change for maintenance.
They thought I was insane. Who would pay to use a toilet when everybody just relieves themselves on the side of the road?
Silly me.

While the surveyors were discussing logistics I sat with the children. I asked them to recite the Oriya alphabet. That done, a recess was demanded. They sang and some of the boys did a little break-dance for my entertainment. They were climbing all over me- asking to be picked up and swung around in circles until they were dizzy and couldn’t walk straight. Such fun.
I went to sleep happy. And woke up scratching my head.
(Head lice is but a minor occupational hazard.)
Something tells me I’m going to have to buy a boochie comb and medicated shampoo this evening.