This is an alleyway that leads through the everyday lives of families who call the slums of Calcutta, home. Mothers washing clothes right outside their doors and hanging up their colourful fabrics to flutter at you as you walk past their huts. Girls helping to prepare the ingredients for the next meal – chopping up onions, or sifting through rice to make sure there are no bugs or anything else that shouldn’t be eaten. Children scooting past, drumming on anything worthy of noise-making with the army of sticks that they carry, chasing after flea-bitten animals. Young mothers going about their business, young babies strapped to their backs.
And everywhere the smell that – once experienced – never lets you go. Nothing compares to open sewage, stenching relentlessly in the unbearable heat of the day, in competition with those food-cooking fragrances, laundry-day dampness, bodies and animals vying for space…
It was just another day, heading to school in the slum. Knowing that a dozen or more eager faces awaited us in the little 10’x10’ school room. In this environment it’s hard to imagine smiling faces, but I see them – every time. This is where they live and where they survive, and seeing the smiles in the eyes and across the mouths of those children each time I step into the classroom, that’s they joy of learning for me.