Slumdog Nostalgia

Maithreyi - San Jose, California
Entered on February 2, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe that visiting a third world country is the most luxurious change you can have.

Watching “Slumdog Millionaire”, the story of love, destiny and innocence set in the corruption-ridden slums of India, made me positively nostalgic. Before you think I’m absolutely sadistic, let me explain. Growing up for thirteen years in the crowded streets of Chennai in Southern India in an apartment overlooking the 40 acres of slums meant that we would forever remember the disparity of wealth around the world. It meant that taking the rickshaw (the two wheeled cart) to my private all-girls school meant a ride past the slums each and every day. It meant that when I didn’t want to finish my plate of beans, coconut and lentil rice, my mom only needs to make me walk up to the terrace and overlook the dirt-trodden streets and the crude straw and clay huts for me to come back and “lick my plate clean”. But “Slumdog millionaire” made it mean something else for me. It showed the little effort it takes to make those two slum “kids” happy. It makes me realize that in this day and age, I believe we should pause, take a giant step back, and remember that even in the complexity of the global economic crisis, the failing peace-keeping policies of middle-east, and politics of who’s who in the world today, it’s the simplicity that makes our lives happy. In a recent trip to India, I walked along those same dirt-trodden streets during the rain-heavy monsoon season on day, when it suddenly started pouring. Being about a mile away from home, I decided to take shelter beneath the uneven protruding roof of a straw hut, when a child run up to me and asked in my language, “Akka (sister), Do you know how to make a paper boat?” Remembering putting together the old paper “kapal” races at age eight, I helped the little boy put together the same “kapal” that helped me win the last time I had raced. Upon doing so and microseconds after handing it to him, he grabbed my fingers with his worn little hands, and dragged me to referee the paper boat race that would take place in a large puddle in the next street. Forgetting that my freshly dry-cleaned chiffon skirt was getting soaked, I refereed for them. Sumanth, the boy I helped won the race and I also won that day. No, I didn’t take credit for the boy’s boat; instead I won something that would be with me forever. Through the cheering and laughter as the first boats drew closer to the finish line, I felt so much happier than the day I received a big screen TV as a graduation present. Watching that boat race on the puddle was a euphoria that even millions of dollars cannot buy, and now, every time I am bombarded with reminders of rising unemployment rates and decreased spending, I remember that the greatest moments of joy come from the pennies it takes to make a boat on a piece of paper. As a greater lesson and to actually realize this themselves, I believe that everyone should take a trip to a third world country, and witness first hand the little joys of helping strangers who have less, and the tremendous first class luxury that comes with it.