When you hear the word “slum” and “Kolkata”, especially if combined together, all these dramatic pictures might come up to your mind. Poverty, misery, dirt and squallor…but these images couldn’t be further from the truth.
Walking through the slums, once you look closer, you will see that there’s a lot going on here. People do have jobs, mainly porters, builders and such, and they built a very solid community. The lack of personal space and the few resources made people very supportive to eachother.
The main drag runs parallel to the Hoogly river, while the people mainly live along the railway, right behind the road.
Life is public here. As many other similar places in India, people rely on the open spaces for their daily routines.
Washing clothes, cooking food and taking a bath don’t need to be hidden away, especially when a family of 6 live together in a 3 square meters house made of cardboard.
Tradition and magic are still alive in the slum: a lady displays amulets made out of animal skins, fethers and even a m onkey skull. She doesn’t sell them, apparently the people who are really looking for a supernatural help, can take what they need the most and give it back.
As soon as Marta stepped in to the neighbourhood, all the kids started yelling her name, chasing her and jumping on her back. She’s very protected here, and she barely can walk without having a team of male escorts. I can see that people really appreciate and recognize the amount of work she’s putting in her project.
In the 2006, the locals turned a little room overlooking the river into a social communal space they renamed “The Club”.
Since last year, when Marta founded “A Mano A Mano” her personal project, backed by an Italian bigger NGO called “Gocce Nell’Oceano”, this place has been turned into a little school/hospital and recreational area, where the kids can come at anytime.
I fell for the charme of Rohit, one of the cutest Kids of the community.
Spending a full day with the kids takes a lot of energy, but what they give back in terms of emotions is priceless.