Monday, 26 January 2009

Slumdogs and Starfish

I just watched ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Whoever called it the ‘feel-good movie of the decade’ either started off ridiculously depressed or… I don’t know, but feel-good it aint! I had been warned that for someone who’s been to India and seen the reality of the slums it could be quite harrowing but I’m not usually affected very much by movies so I thought it might just be a bit sad in places. But ‘harrowing’ is the perfect word to use. It is real and in every scene, for every character, there are thousands of real people living in that situation today, every day.

At the end of the film, when he goes to answer the final question, there are shots of people all over India celebrating: people gathered around TV shop windows, crowded into individual houses that have TVs, stood in the street watching, and others, obviously more wealthy, who are in comfortable houses. When he wins [sorry to spoil it…but you should have guessed by the title ;)], kids run across the railway lines in celebration just like Jamal does as a child at the beginning of the film. It’s a happy ending for one of these ‘slumdogs’ but there are millions of others still where he started. What will it take to protect them from leading the same life, or worse- the lives of those not so lucky to escape in the way he did so many times?

The problem is so big, what difference can we make? At this point I’m reminded of the ‘starfish story’ (found here). It tells of a young man who was walking along the beach throwing stranded starfish back into the sea. When challenged that he could not possibly make a difference to all the thousands of starfish washed up on the shore, he picked up another starfish, threw it into the ocean and said, “It made a difference to that one.” We can make a difference to the individual ones, until we find a way to make a difference to the twos, and then the threes, until we can make a difference to the thousands. But never let me be so overwhelmed by the size of the task that I make a difference to no-one.

If there are people actually reading this, watch this space for information about ‘Love India’- a charity we intended to set up when we returned from India in the summer. The busyness of life has put a pause on any developments but after tonight, I have to do something. Even if I just make a difference to one.

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