The dust settles on the rickety wooden gate, where the crippled old man kneels, resolutely puffing on the rolled cigarette clenched between his two bony fingers. The cigarette smoke merges with the exhaust fumes of the stagnant traffic of yellow taxis filled with hordes of honking drivers. The taxis splash water from the gutter over the hunched backs of women scavenging through scattered piles of torn packaging, clad in scraps of haphazard cotton. Children scuttle and skitter around the women, grasping school satchels as they trudge through the rubble. Beggars tug at the hems of glittered saris worn by rich women as they walk, kicking up dust into the pleading faces of the vagrants. The taut skin of the weary rickshaw drivers burn under the heat of the skies above, crouched over their pedalling feet below. Peeling branches hold up squares of tarpaulin where underneath the slum dwellers lie, watching their emaciated children kick swathes of cloth back and forth in the midst of the dirt. Buildings loom over the slums tottering precariously, weighed down by the jutting balconies. Men dressed in starched white shirts and crisp suit trousers lean over the balconies peering at the unjust world below.
This is India. My country. Pushed down and broken so many times but still hanging on and standing tall. Corrupted by flaws but awash with purity and kindness. A country split into rich and poor but connected as we all share the same soil. You see hope in everyone. This is what keeps India alive. The rickshaw driver is fatigued and collapsing but is pedalling, still pedalling along towards a new future. The slum children dream of one day stepping out of the walls of the slum, hand in hand with their parents, walking into the rest of the world and all the opportunities it holds within. Even the cripple looks past his cigarette and struggles to stand. We dream of a time when aristocrats and slaves not only share the same soil, but eat the same bread, drink the same water. Of a time when the jewelled lady holds the wrinkled hands of the cripple, when the cigarette smoke has cleared, and the rubble no longer remains.
We are all Mother India’s children, whether we are Muslim, Christian, Hindu or somewhere in between, we are all Indian.