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Struggling Souls of the Silicon Valley


Kishlay Singh

2013-12-17

According to a 2012 report submitted to the World Bank by Karnataka Slum Clearance Board, Bangalore has 862 slums from total of around 2000 slums in Karnataka. The families living in the slum are not ready to move into the temporary shelters.  42% of the households migrated from different parts of India and 43% of the households had remained in the slums for over 10 years. The Karnataka Municipality, works to shift 300 families annually to newly constructed buildings. One third of these slum clearance projects lack basic service connexions, 60% of slum dwellers lack complete water supply lines and share BWSSB water supply.”-wikipedia

What do these figures say? Is Bangalore really the city we know and see around us? The answer is no. Bangalore has a hidden face which we are unaware of. Here are certain things that I have witnessed in Bangalore since I came here!

While I was shooting a documentary on urban poverty, I saw quite a different face of Bangalore which contradicted with my notion that I use to hold about the city. Near chickbanavara railway station, in south- west frontier of Bangalore, there is a slum typical of its kind. However, the people inhabiting those slums are not the typical dwellers of Karnataka. They are immigrants!

The family we documented was from Panipath, farmers by occupation, who had boarded a train to an anonymous place saving their lives from the deluge of monsoon. They had lost three members of their family in the flood, the elderly members who were significant source of income for the family. After spending three days of tiresome journey in a general train compartment, spending three wakeful nights on train floor saving their heads from the brutal legs of vendors and passengers, Bangalore was the refuge.  The city looked alien without any trace of affordable lodging, children were crying out of hunger, and nobody seemed to care.

And now after three months, things seem to have changed for them, though at a snail’s pace; they still are suffering under the rage of poverty. The parents go out for work and children roam the slum entire day.  While father sits by the roadside cutting hairs, the mother sells flowers in the streets. They revealed that their monthly income is less than five thousand. Can you imagine? A big family with three prepubescent children living on such a low income, what kind of life they must be living!

‘Aren’t there any government schools nearby?’, I asked the mother. ‘Yes, there are’, she said in sarcasm, ‘But they teach in Kannada. Our children wouldn’t understand anything.’ I felt sorry for the entire family and paid them some money for documenting their lives. I left with my crew, distressed. 

While we were waiting at the chickbanawara station, waiting for a train to yeshwantpura, our next shooting location, a train jam-packed with passengers halted, filling the air with its peculiar commotions. Watching the swarm of exhausted passengers getting down, my eyes fell upon a family who boarded off and walked to the bench next to a chaai shop. While the parent settled on the floor for a cup of tea, the children ran in all directions with biscuits in their hands. The air around them, and the language they spoke, spoke boldly of the fact that they were not locals, perhaps refugees. The way they laid a mattress on the platform and lied down only made me infer that they had no accommodation, just like the family I met in the slum. The struggle for them had just begun.

Our trip to yeshwantpura was followed by a great deal of disappointment We couldn’t shoot the slums near yeshwant pura railway station because the poor people objected.  They must have considerd us a threat and to protect their refuge asked us to go away. We tried to bribe them with some money but they appeared displeased.  Sensing annoyance on their faces, we ran away to avoid any quarrel. While we moves out of the slum and made our way to the main market, another family  of immigrants was sitting by the roadside, ostensibly thinking where to go, and what to do… 

But slums are not the only area where unfortunate souls are found. Take a walk through the market and you’ll see a line of beggars sitting by the footpath, begging for a penny. Too many beggars in Bangalore! Often, in the suburbs of the city,  you encounter women approaching pedestrians with the pallu of their saaris spread out, begging. Many have found another way of living. They decorate a cow in a peculiar way to make it look as if it has some connection with God. Then begins the journey of the holy cow to the houses around the street with flute playing in the background. They will continue playing their nauseating tone at your doorstep until you get fed up, get out and chase them away either by giving money or giving a tight scold. And then you can see them moving to the neighbors’ house playing again. Much of a routine this has become. This is how they make their living in the silicon valley of India.

The ‘Hijras’ have yet another way of supporting their livelihood. One day, while getting back to home I was chased by a group of ‘transs*xuals’ in a lonely street in pipeline road; a narrow escape for me it was! I’ve faced this before near kepeqowda bus stand; I was tortured by a group of shemales until I emptied my wallet to them. Embarrassment, Anger, and pity get fired simultaneously upon encountering such situation.

Child labor becomes a major issue in poverty afflicted areas. Lack of affordable schools, poverty, and growth of casual cost-cutting measure are perhaps the major cause of child labor in India. The local children in Bangalore take good advantage of Government schools but the immigrants lack behind. In the impoverished parts of Bangalore, immigrant children have minimal access to school and education. The parents complain that the language they teach goes over their head. Furthermore, employing children into works becomes a considerable source of income for the family, and helps in sustaining life in the metropolis. For some families, income from children’s labor is between 25 to 40 % of household income. As a result, the children don’t get opportunity to develop physically, intellectually, and emotionally. 

 Prostitution is also a thriving business in Bangalore, with the majority of s*x worker falling under the age of 21. A face off with a prostitute girl in majestic bus stand reveled to me the fact that almost all the low-end s*x workers join this vocation to alleviate themselves from poverty. The girl I met admitted despondently that whatever she earns is used up in buing clothes and makeup frills required for the vocation, and a little is left for basic necessities. Some autowaals  are her regular patrons, often she’s coerced into practicing unsafe s*x for  a very little money. I was curious to know about her childhood, and it turned out to be pretty dysfunctional! She narrated me her story when she was just 15 years old. ‘I was in need of money’, she said, ‘My brother was fighting for his life in the hospital and the doctors were constantly bugging for money.  Then an middle-aged man, who saw me crying helplessly at the hospital gate, took me to a small cottage where I was asked to undress in return for money. Three more men joined and they all had lustful s*x with me. They paid me the money as promised, and it was that point in my life when I realized that my body can earn me money. 

 I know problems are present everywhere with Bangalore being no exception, but we should atleast think about it, and bring these things into light so that proper actions can be taken. The documentary I am making  is meant for the same purpose—creating awareness to put an end to poverty. If interested, you can request me a youtube link when it gets released(date not decided yet). This would be my first documentary so excuse the lack of quality. And lets hope things will change.

CA Pulkit Sharma

2013-12-18

Without any second thought, this is the best article on TIKshare in this category. Great going Kishlay......

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Shrikanth Alva

2014-11-18

Thanks for this documentary, you are doing good job bro.

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