I hear the faint sound of running water and I sit upright quickly from my position on the floor. I sit motionless for a moment. The overhead fan squeals, the sound of evening prayer from a nearby mosque drifts in through the open window competing against a symphony of horns from passing cars. The sound is faint but I hear it again. Could it be?? Excited and anxious I run towards the bathroom and look up at my water tank above the kitchen but see no sign of water. Opening the door to the bathroom I can see a drip forming under the tap and my excitement resumes. I open the tap and hold my breath and hear a quick creak and a guttural sound from the wall, and like magic, water gushes from the tap! I quickly fill all the buckets in the bathroom and take a shower immediately. I have been without water in my apartment for the last couple days and the weak dripping water feels and looks like Niagara Falls.
I arrived back in Mumbai just about a week ago, sleepily moving
through customs and eagerly awaiting my first “head bobble”. The humid
heat of the pending monsoon coupled with nearly 20 million people
living far to close together hits you seconds after you get off the
plane. It’s smothering but welcoming all the same. As Ashley and
Fatima greet me just outside the the gate, I look up to see hundreds
of people running towards us and I step back confused? A second later
we are surrounded as families jostle for position near the arrivals
gate. I scoop up my bag and Ashley asks what’s going on. “Guru
Ji..Guru Ji is here!”, a local man proclaims, a photo of “Guru Ji”
clipped to his shirt pocket. Moments later a small pudgy man clad in
orange is whisked passed security and people begin to shout and
scream, all hoping to get a glimpse of the holy man or at best to
touch his arm and offer him a garland. Guru Ji, surrounded by
security, moves quickly past the throngs of people, pausing to collect
a garland from a few lucky devotees, and then he disappears into a
waiting car. Families had waited hours for the experience that lasted
only seconds. The three of us then piled into one of Mumbai’s rusting
black and yellow Fiat taxis for the short ride to my apartment in
Marol, passing Guru Ji worshippers making the long walk home on the
dark and dusty streets.
My first night in the apartment is sleepless. Restless, I make my way to the roof top and sit overlooking Mumbai and wonder what the next few months will have in store for both DWP and myself. Morning finally comes and I head by rickshaw to the community I left two months ago that has been my second home for the past two years. Walking into the community I’m greeted by children and soon I hear ” Kane Sir” being yelled down the main lane way. Children pop their heads out from doorways and I reach out to shake hands and say hellos as I move towards the school. The community is quiet because many families have gone to their native villages for their yearly visits. The temperature hovers around 35 degrees but it feels hotter. For the next several hours I walk through the community greeting families, DWP sponsor children, and friends. Ashley gives me a tour of the work he has done since I left and we take a few minutes to sit near the large garden that DWP built last year. The colourful mural wall of the garden still looks beautiful and I watch as 3o kids play cricket. A few families sit in the shade on the benches and as word gets out about my arrival more and more children stop by to say hello.
I walk back to the centre and see that the door to the GCB centre is open and I am greeted by a smiling Indu. Indu has done an amazing job over the last few months while I have been away and we spend the next hour viewing the products that the ladies have made in my absence. Indu is excited to show me the account books and receipts she has carefully maintained and she fills me in on the gossip of the community. Megha, Ranjana’s daughter, comes running into the room and gives me a big hug and pulls at my arm to come to her home for tea. I agree and head next door and sit down for a cup of sweet chai with Ranjana. The taste of chai and being in Ranjana’s welcoming home, brings me back and I feel at home and at ease, excited to be back in the community.
With all the excitement and smiles, I forgot why I am here, but the realities of slum life lie just below the surface and behind every door in the community. Soon mothers and fathers come knocking, knowing that my arrival also means a chance at a helping hand. I sit down with Ramesh Pujari’s wife and she explains to me that Ramesh is in need of a surgery and will I help. Behind her is another family waiting patiently for a chance to be heard and I slowly catch up on all the pending medical cases that need urgent attention. A new strain of drug resistant TB has hit Mumbai and this disease is causing problems for several families along the pipeline.
Over the last few days DWP has begun to put the last two months of fundraising to work.
- Ramesh is taken to Sion hospital and undergoes Angiography surgery. 5500 INR – $110 CAD (Includes medicines)
- DWP makes a visit to a new sponsor case and subsequently adds Riba Shaik as DWP newest sponsor child. 6167 INR – $123.34 CAD (Full years fees)
- Kajal a twelve year old girl was taken to a Doctor to see why she has been suffering from high fevers. Blood tests and medicines and have taken and we are now waiting for the last results to find out more about her condition. 830 INR – $16.60 CAD
- DWP has paid the women of GCB their monthly wages plus cash bonuses for all the women.
- To celebrate being back together and to mark Pushpa’s departure from the community the women of GCB brought their children and we all sat down to a special lunch. 16 people ate for 1200 INR – $24 CAD
- GCB received a donation of fabric from Deutsche Bank employee and DWP friend Leon Cohello.
- DWP purchased a new pair of sandals for a young boy who works collecting garbage in the community. 60 INR – $1.20 CAD
- The biggest and most exciting project over the first few days was the purchase of two new swing sets for the big garden! Cost including delivery and local masons and labour – 40,000 INR – $800 CAD
- DWP paid the medical bills for a young boy with Cerebral Paulsy today who was suffering from Typhoid fever. 5500 INR – $110 CAD
In great news, the latest rumour in the community is that we will be safe from demolition until possibly 2014!! We don’t know if this is fact or fiction quite yet but the community is excited and hopeful.
What this means for DWP is uncertain still. I plan on working hard over the next six weeks here in Mumbai getting all of our DWP sponsor children back in school for the upcoming year and adding as many new children as I can, while also funding the many medical needs of the community. I’m thinking of heading north for the month of June to meet up with a few other organizations and fill needs as I move through the country.
It feels good to be back and helping again and I look forward to keeping all of our DWP supporters and friends up to date on the needs we fill over the next several months.
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