The slumdog euphoria is in full swing. Awards and kudos galore and the ensuing media blitz: slums have suddenly become the flavour of the day. Suits me as normally people are reluctant to hear the slum tales I often tell. I guess the hype will continue till Oscar night at least.
There have been a few detractors people who feel offended at the depiction of slum life, or others who want the word dog removed from the title, and yet others who feel that some scenes may whip up communal passion. But all in all slumdgog has been a a runaway success, even in the eyes of those who till now had never deigned to look at slums and its dwellers. Today slums are no longer invisible, they loom larger than life thanks to a story told.
In all interviews and talk shows the slumdog team has been pitching the film as a tale of hope and love. I am sure it is because slums are replete with tales of hope. And of the umpteen questions asked the ones that struck a chord with me was the ones pertaining to what one could simplify in one word: payback! Yes what did all those who won acclaims for the movie intend to do for the slums and their dwellers. And if I may be allowed to stretch the question further what do each one of us who are oohing and aahing about the film intend to do to reach out to them. I would like to believe that miracles would come by but experience compels me to think otherwise. It is true that the slumdog team has pledged substantial help to the Dharavi dwellers, the director even mentioned that children who acted in the film are now in school. Laudable indeed but a drop in the ocean. It needs much more than one film and its team to change things.
I would like to ask why it takes a film and images on a silver screen to shake us out of our deep slumber. Children like the ones you see running across the screen or on posters are everywhere if you are willing to look. But we have become inured to them and have stopped asking questions. I often wonder why the powers that be, the local authorities and civil society itself does not wonder why so many children hang around every red light when they should by law be in school? You do not even have to walk through a slum to see them. I wonder why we are not disturbed by the sight of people living in abysmal conditions like the lohars (gypsy iron smith) who live along roads we travel each day, or little Radha whose house is so tiny that you have to crawl into it. We simply pass by unfazed an unconcerned.
It is OK for us to sit in the audience of a talk show and ask what others are intending to do, but what about some soul searching. It is wonderful to applaud a story where a young slumdog becomes a millionaire but do we realise that it is within us to make this happen for someone in reality. What if I told you that it is within our reach to weave tales of hope and make dreams come true. At this very moment four little children are waiting patiently for someone to make it happen for them. Is anyone listening?