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Two and a half years ago, during my first visit in India, I spent 2 days walking all around the slums of Mumbai. Even though I got to learn quite a bit about the life in the slums, I didn’t have the chance to live inside the slums and because of that I left with more questions than answers.
So now that I came back to India for the second time, I decided to go back to Mumbai and spend five days living in Dharavi, which is one of the largest slums in the world.
This experience opened my eyes in ways I couldn’t have imagined, because I got to spend so much time with the local people, who completely transformed my outlook on what their lives were like.
You see, as most outsiders, I had a very distorted view of the people of the slums. We grow up hearing stories about them dying on the streets, no one being able to read and write, kids having to sleep surrounded by flesh-eating rats and so on.
There are, of course, tons of problems that need to be addressed, especially when it comes to sanitation. For example, sources say that in Dharavi there is an average of 1 toilet for a thousand people. Also, livestock generally lives in the same quarters with people and that, combined with the fact that the local water sources lack cleaning facilities, sometimes causes the spread of contagious diseases.
However, people there are just like everywhere else. They have their own dreams, goals, careers, thoughts and emotions. They are in no way different from the rest of us.
It doesn’t matter where we come from. We are all equal. Some of us are born with golden spoons in our mouths, others are not. But that doesn’t define us. What defines us is our pursuit of happiness, our compassion for others and our ability to adapt to whatever circumstances we’re in and make the best of them.
Huge thanks to Danulis Macijauskas (https://www.instagram.com/danulis/) for editing this video and to Urtė Laukaitytė for her feedback and advice on how to tell this story properly.