Congratulations Slumdog Millionaire!!!

by Pam

Slumdog Millionaire
WARNING: This piece is not funny. If you are expecting something funny you will be disappointed. Even I have to take my tongue out of my cheek sometime ; )

We saw Slumdog Millionaire around Xmas time in Sonoma and I admit to bursting into tears halfway into the film. This is truly an amazing piece of cinema with fantastic characters, a great structure and awesome storyline – but that had nothing to do with why I was crying.  While watching the sweeping scenes of radically poor slums, intimidating train stations, and scarred beggar children, I couldn’t help being flooded with a feeling of,  “Oh my God, that is where we’re going to live?”

The India I’ve met this past month is the Slumdog India we are all becoming familiar with, but it is also so, so much more. I’ve visited houses built out of dung, and been mobbed by children trying to snatch candy out of my hands, seen people sleeping in alleyways and cows eating garbage, but even with these difficult attributes, to call India a third world country really doesn’t do it justice. They also have houses, and grocery stores, and highly functioning railway systems, beauty salons and educations. As a whole, people here hardly drink, and drug use seems to be an anomaly. They are dedicated to their family and their gods. They work six days a week. There is horrendous traffic but they seem to never let it get the better of them.

India is as young and curious, as it is ancient and wise. Sure, they don’t seem to know what to do with their trash, and the outlawed caste system still serves to keep people from equal upward mobility, and the water is lethal and there is sewage in some of the streets – but nowhere is perfect. I’ve seen more homeless people in San Francisco than I have in Bangalore, and I’ve felt more anxious walking to my car in the Mission District than I have walking through a crowded market in Delhi, where Phil and I were the only white skinned people we’d seen all day.

I’m not saying that bad things don’t happen here, but I am saying that good things happen too. I get the sense that the Indian people are well aware of their emerging status in the world, and that collectively they will work to protect not only their status, but their visitors as well.  I hope this Oscar win makes it easier for India to take its place at the table.

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6 Responses to “Congratulations Slumdog Millionaire!!!”

  1. Eric says:

    “I’ve seen more homeless people in San Francisco than I have in Bangalore, etc.”

    Well said. What a nice way of putting the scary parts of a foreign land in perspective.

  2. nm says:

    Had you ever traveled to a third world country before?

    I’ve heard americans echo these same sentiments about Africa and are stunned when they get there and find the same things you have describe above: grocery stores, laptops, coffee shops, etc, etc

    Did you think all of india would look like a Slum? the country does have quite a few billionaires and I’m assuming many millionaires as well.

  3. sita says:

    well said Pam!

  4. Lauren B says:

    You are such a fashion-forward-trend-setter!
    Apparently, slum tours in India are a new booming trend as a result of the film’s popularity. I’m guessing that many people will be asking you if “Slumdog” was your motivation.

  5. Ellen Fields says:

    I’ve had a similar experience in Mexico. I’ve seen maybe two homeless people here in seven years (in a city of a million people). Yet, just heard of a kid at a local school who fainted in class from hunger because the school breakfast was the only food he was getting at all. People live in houses Americans wouldn’t let their dogs stay in, there are dogs roaming the streets, garbage everywhere… but I feel totally safe here. Family is more important than anything, any excuse for a party and everyone is polite and kind to us. It’s a tradition here to name your house, so we were casting about for a name. My assistant, who lives in this neighborhood, told us not to bother. It will always be known as Casa de Los Gringos.
    This is also where I’ve learned that color is an indulgence available to almost anyone, and it is enjoyed freely here.

  6. womannextdoor says:

    ‘the outlawed caste system still serves to keep people from equal upward mobility’

    actually the reservation policy of the government seeks to redress the century old injustices to the erstwhile ‘lower’ classes. So technically there is no barrier to equal upward mobility and many people have benefited from this. At a societal level, I agree that prejudices still exist.