Sunday, 7 February 2016

Are Dreams Meant to be Dreams

- Rizwan (Community Support & Operations)
“Bunglows, a bit higher up”, “Opulent Living”, “Enjoy the luxury of time”, “ Homes with freedom built in”, "Happiness has a new destination” 

These are the advertisements for upcoming real estate projects. But behind these magnificent structures with “built in freedom” are there freedoms lost? Are lives dismantled? Are some destinations found by Desperation and not Happiness?  
On any construction site, hidden from public eye are hundreds of metal shanties that no one notices unless one looks for them. This is where the labour force of a project is housed – in cramped living spaces, with common toilets, a common water tank with no or little space for washing and bathing. Most of the daily washing and bathing happens in open spaces with no sanitary facilities, but plenty of litter and stagnant water. These labourers who are part of building projects, have typically migrated to the city in search of a livelihood. They are looking for opportunities to earn, to live, to survive. They have exhausted all options to earn back home in the village and most are buckling under usurious debts.  The hungry needs of rapid urbanisation easily aborbs them as unskilled labour. Rs 500 a day (or even less) is all it takes. They come from far and near - Raichur, Gulbarga, Yadgiri, Koppala, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkand and so on.
Like any other parent, they also want their children to attend school. They want them to get educated and have a good life. These aspirations, dreams and hopes unfailingly creep into our discussions with the community. They soon come back to reality and rationalise to themselves that ‘dreams are meant to be dreams’. They acknowledge the importance of education for a better future (a livelihood perspective) but quickly state that their children can’t have it anyway as they keep moving from one site to another based on availability of work.  
Devammas and Munirajus in the same room
 Parents work erratic hours. A shift could start as early as 4 a.m. Both mother and father leave for work. They leave their children in the shanties with the oldest child taking care of the younger ones. Children as little as 8 and 9 are care-takers of 8 month olds. A couple  with a young infant, will co opt a close girl child relative to baby sit – like the wife’s sister or husband’s niece – mostly yanked out of school back home. These are the Devammas taking care of the Munirajus  in our centre.

We struggle to make sense of these situations personally and professionally, as educators and intervention designers. We know that there are some supportive policies in place. We also know that there are many yet to be created or implemented. The larger concern for us is how can the various stakeholders who have the potential to impact this child come together, into a united whole. How do we understand the gap between policy and implementation? What does that mean for us at ground level? How can the system give Devamma the best fighting chance knowing well that she is – indirectly – a breadwinner for her family? How can the Devammmas and Munirajus grow up with an opportunity equal to others? How can freedoms belong to everyone?  These are troubling questions that will, undoubtedly, drive us onwards as we put in our bit into the efforts of the system.