Friday, February 20, 2009

Picture This...

Real slums. Real poverty. Real people living on less than $2 a day. It's the truth of Mumbai, India's Dharavi slum...which is the setting for the story of Slumdog Millionaire's 18-year old orphan, Jamal Malik. Surely you've seen the film by now. If not, try to see it before it runs away with the top Oscars Sunday night. Who couldn't love this story? Dire hopelessness + stubborn determination + sacrificial love + feats of daring, and some very cute children, and some great music... One reviewer said, "If Slumdog Millionaire were a person instead of a film, she would have been hugged to death by now." People love this movie. Myself included. My favorite scene from the film is in the police station. Jamal has been brutalized by authorities who believe he's cheating to win on the popular TV show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. To make their point, the police review a recorded segment of the show on which Jamal couldn't answer a very simple question about India's equivalent to the Pledge of Allegiance. "Even a 5-year old knows the answer to that question." says the police officer. "Do you know who stole a bicycle last night on the streets of Dharavi?" Jamal asks the officer. "No, I do not." he answers. "Even a 5-year old knows this in my neighborhood." Jamal tells him. The story unfolds from there...showing us the ways in which Jamal has been educated growing up on the streets of Mumbai. I liked the reminder that much of what we need to know about life does not come from books. I delighted in the suggestion that we all bring our own brand of wisdom to the world. I applauded Jamal's confidence in his street smarts. I was in love with and cheering for Jamal every step of the way. Outside the theater, however, I felt a cloud of reality hovering. 35,000 real children live on the streets of Mumbai. I have no doubt that these actual children are wise in ways far beyond my Western/well-read/well-fed education. I also know they are orphaned and hungry and sick and exploited by human vultures. In real life. Do yourself a favor before Sunday's Academy Awards show. Read a real life (without the millions) Jamal story. Her name is Rukshana. She is a 15-year old child of the streets in Mumbai. And if you are one for champagne and celebration on Oscar night, why not mark the occasion of Slumdog Millionaire's fame and fortune with a thought and a donation for the real street children of Mumbai? Building a better world for children...picture that! Peace.


ac said...

I have not seen Slumdog Millionaire but reading your blog makes me want to watch it even more. I'm from a not so rich country as well and I've seen lots of people like Jamal.

Mama de la Paz said...

Thanks for reading in Manila, ac!
Take a look at this CBS news story on the real Dharavi slum in Mumbai...does this look like anything familiar to you?

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