The sunny side of the slum


What’s your association of the word ‘slum’? What things pop-up in your mind after hearing this topic? Most certainly you will tell me that a slum is a dirty place, filled with too many people in a very small area. I’m quite sure you will add that there are no toilets and you will probably tell me that people live there in very unhealthy conditions. During my time in Pune I regularly pass some slums. Sometimes during walks through the city and even – more confronting – while sitting in my air-conditioned SUV. I can’t recall when, but on one occasion I further examined the word ‘slum’ and found out that there is not a clear defined explanation. The definition of a bike or a house is very clear: a bike is a two-wheeler where the user produces enough strength to turn the blades and a house is a residential building where people live. But what’s the definition of a ‘slum’? And do we need to use the word? I found out that the word slump is used in a negative context only. Besides ‘Slumdog millionaire’ there are no positive ways to use the word ‘slum’. That’s painful and full of disrespect. Yes, a slum is not a place for me to go out. And I’d rather not want to live in a slum. However, imagine an Indian economy without people from slums. You could even argue that a very important part of the Indian economy ‘drives’ on people from slums. These are the workers, the cleaners, the people that bring you from a to b in  rickshaws. Bus drivers, delivery people, caretakers, watchmen? They are with many and they all have a very important position and role in the driving Indian economy. And, to finish, they are working for a salary that you and I will never consider to work for. And there is more. Recently there was an event in Mumbai about slums. They held a tedx event about Dharavi, said to be the largest slum in Asia and home of more and new businesses. In Pune there is a wonderful market called Juna Bazar. It’s surrounded by slums and operated by local people. We bought several stuff for our house and we are very happy with it. On a very small scale they also have dreams about business and upgrading their live. And it’s wonderful to see. For me the word ‘slum’ means more: happy people, sometimes struggling in live but also filled with dreams and desires. Let’s define another word of slum or only use the word in a positive context!

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