“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes.”
Well, they say there is a first for everything, so here is mine for the day. Last night I slept on the side of the road in one of the construction slums, a place I had never previously dreamed of staying in. These groups of lopsided shacks are literally on the road (the road is just a bit wider to accommodate), and are found throughout areas where they are doing extensive road work. Though many of these communities are composed solely of men, in these parts, they include wives and children as well.
As I was trying to figure out where I would stay for the night, one of the children from the shacks signed to me that she wanted to ride my bike. With it still fully loaded, I pushed her up and down the road, by which point a few of the women, including her mother, came out to watch. They were all laughing, and pretty soon a few of the other children wanted a turn as well. After quite a few rides, one of the women brought me into her home for tea. Inside there was one mattress (for a family of five) and a fire pit used for cooking, but no space for anything else. The girl who had first approached me signaled that she wanted me to stay there and sleep with her, and since her mother was nodding, I figured that was alright.
Here are the shacks. There were five or six families living here from what I could tell, though I only got to know the two I ate and slept with.
They live hard lives, doing physical work all day in the sun and dust, then coming home to a shack, without water or electricity, that could collapse at any minute. Even so, the women (I didn’t hang out with the men) seemed happy, and the children ran around giggling like kids anywhere. They were extremely gracious, and two of the families would try and feed me at every meal. I ended up sleeping on the ground (on some blankets) with a fifty something year old Indian women in her shack. I hardly slept since the fighting rats on the roof were so loud, but it was well worth a sleepless night to have spent some times with these lovely people.
Though it obviously doesn’t look like it, they were excited about getting their photo taken, and taking each others. Unfortunately, as they had never used a camera before, and my Hindi doesn’t cover explaining how to focus the image first, none of theirs turned out.
At one point, one of the ladies excitedly pulled me into her shack to put me in a sari. She even gave me a bindi and put olive oil in my hair as she combed it tightly back.
Right after I was all dressed up, I got a note saying “miss, I am in charge here, please come see me.” One of the girls took my hand and led me (in the sari) down to a much nicer house where apparently the manager of the construction project lives. He told me that he has to meet anyone who stays there before he allows it (yeah right, I mean seriously, who has ever tried to stay there before me), but I think he was just curious to see who I was. He gave me tea and tried to become my facebook friend, but that was it. All in all it was another one of those unforgettable nights, from pushing the children around on the bike, to sleeping on the floor next to a wonderful Indian lady in flimsy metal shack.