and never the twain shall meet

A glittering report was aired yesterday about the new home of one of India's richest man. Quite a home: 27 floors, 400 000 square feet of space, bathrooms as big as flats, private cinema theatre, gyms and juice bars, 4 floors for parking and all for one family! At a whopping two billion dollars it is the world's most expensive home!

In another part of the same country Jyoti lives with her family and neighbours in a slum. Her home has 80 square feet and no bathroom or kitchen but is her home and she has made the best of what she has: a little shelf displaying some steel crockery- remains of her dowry-, few plastic decoration pieces bought at the local china bazaar, a little TV that brings the world into her home and lots of smiles and giggles as she proudly shows her dog eared photo album.

A few years back when we still were running a centre at the Lohar basti - the gypsy camp - little Ritu a spunky 3 year old whose house was one of the last ones of the camp was often given the task of showing her home to visitors. She lived in a shack covered by a tarpaulin where one corner was filled with rags as her father a ironmonger by trade often picked rags to supplement his income. The dwelling has one large bed piled with clothes, a small rickety cupboard and not much else. It was dark, dingy and humid. I remember a day when I asked her to show her 'home' to a friend who had come by. Ritu the ever confident kid, bearing the age old pride of her clan firmly took my friends hand in hers and holding on to her slipping pant with the other marched off. We followed her. As she reached the entrance of her home she said with the confidence of a queen in a loud and clear voice and a regal gesture: Yeh Hai! - This is it-, as if her home was a palace!

And what was heart warming and wrenching at the same time is that it was she felt. This was her home, a place she loved and where she had spent happy moments. The visit was not over. She invited us in, cleared the bed, made us sit and set out to give us a tour of the place. She opened the cupboard and showed off her clothes and those of her parents and then looking for her mom simply said: chai banao - make some tea!

Needless to say we were all moved to tears as millions of questions begging for answers ran through our mind begging for answers. Why were people still living like this in a country that boasted it was shining!

Strange that this incident should come back to my mind today after seeing images of the most expensive home in the world. I simply wonder whether the richest family can ever feel the same pride that the little gypsy girl.