ON THE STREETS OF MUMBAI
MUMBAI, INDIA: OCT 2010
Mumbai, India’s largest city, has a population of sixteen million people crowded into a 603 Square Kilometer area, making it the second most densely populated city in the world. Twenty three thousand people occupy a square kilometer. Compare it to Toronto with a population of two and a half million and a density of 793 people!
Mumbai, India’s richest city, called the City Of Dreams, also has close to one million homeless people. Thirty-five thousand of these are street children. This little girl in the picture is one of them.
I came across her early one morning as we were heading out to the airport and our car was stopped at an intersection. Families have lived for generations on the streets, establishing and colonizing their own section of the pavement where children are born and raised. With just the barest necessities of life most of them know no other existence. Pedophiles prey on the weaker ones and gangsters offer drugs to lure children to a life of begging. For them there is no Slum Dog Millionaire ending!
Time and again, I have revisited this picture and can’t help but wonder about the little girl’s circumstances. Is she doomed to the same less than marginal existence that her parents have survived on for years –a life of misery and deprivation? And yet, despite the missing front teeth, the dirty pants and shirt, I marvel at the quiet dignity that seems to pervade her features: She seems to be taking great pleasure from the simple act of washing her face that morning.