Originally posted on Respose:
India is a strange country. On one side we have the spotlessly clean malls, high profile residential complexes, shining chrome and glass office buildings and on the other side, reflected in the same chrome and glass is the stink of defecation, mess of the slums and huge piles of garbage collected from the upmarket areas and dumped unceremoniously in heaps.
And within these heaps of garbage are human scavengers and rag-pickers isolating the garbage into the usable and the useless. So much for the slogans of reduce, reuse and recycle. This scavenging community that lives on the edge of life and death every day is the saviour of the day. A sight of a 12-14 year old girl carrying a sack of her size on her back and a prodding stick in hand, turning the garbage up and down to find something of value is a very common sight in India. This girl may work throughout the afternoons in the hot sun, inhaling the stink that seems to be the only fragrance of life that she knows and would ever know.
Typically her day starts early morning in the dark (before dawn) when she has to relieve herself before the males rise. Then she goes back to her make shift shelter made of plastic and jute bags, pieces of asbestos and thin bamboo to figure out what she can do to help her mother, perhaps in the same business as hers, to “cook” some sort of concoction which may pass for breakfast for the family. This “food” is mostly a appalling watery liquid of some cereal flour and salt. Once in a while if they are in good luck, they may be able to have some hand made Indian bread with raw onion or a paste of cooked lentil flours. The food is cooked on a smoky fire made by burning variety of fuels ranging from paper, wood, dried dung cakes, coal and sometimes kerosene. Soon after she would leave for the garbage piles dragging her filthy sack. Surely, there is no concept of a daily bath and changing of clothes is just a luxury.