(A)ward(s) to the wise


The Oscars went slumming – one might even be tempted to call it a “slum dunk”. Down and out in Hollywood, the celluloid elite shared the red carpet with the dwellers of the streets of Mumbai. After Slum Dog Millionaire won eight Oscars including for Best Picture and Best Director, Danny Boyle, the film’s British director was understandably elated – the film has raked in millions of dollars and will ensure that Danny Boyle is recession-proof and out of the slums, unless he decides to make a sequel.


What is the forecast for the numerous cast of characters who constitute the cast away extras of Slum Dog Millionaire? Millions of slum dwellers in Mumbai doggedly waited the return of the few fortunate cast members who temporarily took flight on a pilgrimage to the altar of “make believe” in the land of [fading] dreams.


From the heads of political parties, from cultural and civic leaders to the general public and down to the marginalized millions residing in slums, this has been a time of pride and recognition. When all the pride and recognition eventually dies down, as the bright glare of the reel camera fades away, one recognizes that the rude reality is far from an appealing vision.


Very few persons would willingly choose to live in squalid tenements that are crammed in close proximity with precious little privacy and filled with all the sensory experiences of congested human and animal existence. Along with lack of any if not most civic amenities, the escalating effluence is a frontal assault on all the senses while the teeming evidence of growing generations must be a daunting challenge for officials responsible for the census.


In the mad rush to unbridled market capitalism, the proliferating slums are a growth industry. The area of Dharavi, burdened with the questionable (questionable not as a matter of fact but rather of taste) moniker of the “largest slum in Asia”, has temporarily morphed from an unwelcome civic blight to a reigning celebrity delight.