Reality bytes

Today I went with my wife for a tour to Dharavi in Mumbai. This is one of the largest slums in Asia. There are almost a million people living in an area of less than two square kilometres. A home is less than ten square feet and on an average houses five adults. It is indeed an eye opener. You need to visit the place to believe it. We went through an organization, which organises these tours and partly gives back its profit to support the people and children living in Dharavi.

The first part of the tour is the commercial area. In this part, thousands of men and women are working in different types of industries. The first sight of old car bumpers getting shredded and recycled as plastic beads to be moulded into chairs and other plastic durables. Then we pass through suitcase makers, the leather soles for shoes, leather bags, bakery and food items being made for consumption within themselves as well as for sale around town.

You realise how difficult are the working conditions. In dark room with minimum light people inhale dust and paint flakes as they shred material waste to generate the raw material for plastic remoulding durables. People from the remote parts of the country are working day and night leaving their families behind just to earn a livelihood. We realise how privileged we are even to be born in middle class families. Our parents take care of our education, provide us a place to stay and a decent standard of living.

Then you move to the residential area. We see people from different states of India and following different religions living peacefully together. It is here you realise that wealth may not help you buy happiness. You see children, adolescents and adults enjoying each other’s company and helping each other in their daily chores. You see happiness writ on their smiles and this makes you realise that it is not materiality which can bring you happiness in life.

You also see schools – run by government, NGOs and private organisations. While the government and other organisations are tying their best to improve the quality of their lives, the problem is mammoth. One good thing I noticed is that I did not see children working in the commercial areas although this cannot be totally ruled out.

Some of my reflections and learnings after today’s tour are –

A. We need to be grateful to God and our parents/elders for all the comforts we enjoy in life and never realise their value

B. We realise that happiness is not directly correlated to the wealth we possess. Rather happiness is a state of mind and attitude to life.

C. We also need to realise that we need to give back to society more than we get as are indeed much more privileged than millions of people around us.

As in the photo a( courtesy – Reality tours & travels)above, children sitting in a cart within the slum seem happier than many of us. We realise how privileged we are in life.

What do you think ? Is it time to reflect ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Dreams Unlimited

Is it a good idea to dream ?


I think so.  After all, life is full of possiblities.  It is up to us to dream, dedicate our efforts and be disciplined to realize those dreams in our life time.  One interesting facet of life is that anyone can dream.  You need not be rich or poor, educated or uneducated, man or woman, living in a developed world or a developing world.  The only condition has to be the ability to dream and dream big in life.

I also realize that the journey from dreams to reality are similar for all.  The best thing I have experienced in life is the ability of a poor person to dream big and then zealously work towards fulfilling the dream.  One of my colleagues was working with a group of young girls in an orphanage.  She was helping these girls to plan for their career.  She  was inspired by the dreams narrated by these young kids in their school.  One of them wanted to be a pilot while the other a police commissioner.  What this teaches us is that dreams can be unlimited and unhindered.  However, the journey to convert dreams to reality is arduous and tough.

I have seen young school children from the lowest strata of society dream big and accomplish their dreams through hard work and discipline in their life time.  I have also seen rich kids ruin their life with no dreams or desires and burning their inherited wealth till they reach a point of no return.  It is up to us to dream big and then work towards it.

This is equally true in our work life.  Many of us start our career at a lower level in the organisation and with meagre salaries.  We bury our dreams like the ostrich in the sand.  The world moves on and we are left behind.  On the other hand, you hear great inspiring stories of how employees joining as a workmen in a manufacturing organisation end up becoming the CEO of the same organisation by sheer dedication, discipline and dogged pursuit of their dreams.

If we reflect in our personal life, the story is not very different.  We all start our career or business and have limited earnings.  We dream big and want to be wealthy and wise.  Some of us may work towards our dreams and make them a reality.  While others may continue to dream without any focused efforts.  Thus dreaming in life is the first step.  It is like setting a vision and mission for an organisation.  The next step is to work towards making that dream a reality.  It could mean adding qualifications, skills and expertise.  It could mean moving around the country or the world.  It could mean taking risks in life.  It could mean thinking of the impossible and working towards making it possible.

So, life is like a dream and it is up to us to make it a reality. The picture of marine drive above in Mumbai at night is like a dream come true.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar