the heat is on

The heat is on. The weather girl predicted a whopping 45 degrees with a sweat factor of 27% making it feel like 48 degrees. The sensible thing would be to stay at home, away from the sun and the scalding wind. True that is an option for some of us, provided the electricity does not play truant.

Why do you stay open, ask many friends. It would be easy to close for the summer and take off to some hill station, but we know that if we did, children would suffer as home for many of them is a tiny shack with a tin roof, and the streets too hot to be a playground in the heat of the summer.

So we brave the heat and soldier on. Fans and coolers help a little. We also ensure that children are not dehydrated and we know we are on the right track as classes are as full as ever. It is true that some of our classrooms are no better than shacks, like the one in the picture, but somehow the joy of being together makes up for the thatch roof and electricity cuts.

The life of a slum child in the peak of summer is hell. School holidays means having nowhere to go. Homes are overcrowded and torrid. Tempers run high and there is no place to escape. No parks, no open spaces, no shaded play grounds.

The scorching heat brings to light an array of questions, some of them without answers alas! Fr st and foremost is the issue of urban habitat for the poor. How can we call ourselves a free nation when we have not been able to give basic amenities to a large chunk of our population. Urban slums are bereft of any planning, and teeming with disasters waiting to happen. Naked electricity wires run like monstrous webs, each a potential fire hazard that would engulf everything in a split second. Garbage stench and flies abound, and homes - or what goes by the name - are hell holes. Yet most of the people who live there are people we know: our electrician or plumber, our vegetable vendor, our daily maid, the lad who cycles in the heat to bring us the grocery item we have forgotten.. simple souls who make our air conditioned lives a tad better and who are also people protected by the same laws and supposed to enjoy the same rights as us.

Every morning, as we enter our centre we are met with sleepy and tired little eyes. For the past few days many of the creche and special kids have just slept through their day, vindicating our resolve to remain open come what may.

There is of course the larger issue: that of global warming and environment. But in the wake of what we see, one wonders whether anyone is really interested in solving any issue that does not bring with it money, power, votes....

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