Monday, 4 October 2010

Welcome to the city

Dinesh has TB. He has HIV too. He is 26 years old.

15 years ago, all of 11, Dinesh ran away from his home. Ran away from his handicapped father and illiterate mother. Ran away from the village where his parents live. Ran to the city.

As with many young boys - working in one of the many grubby eateries offered a place for Dinesh to get some food and a place to sleep. This has been his life since then.

Behind the glittering spires of swanky Mumbai town are the myriad lives like Dinesh who have come to make a better life. The better so quickly shades into the bitter.

Somewhere along the way Dinesh got HIV. Was it from a girlfriend or a prostitute? Was he abused himself? Did he experiment with other men? We don't know at this point - and though we will eventually help Dinesh explore his risk history - at this point we want to get him onto TB treatment - and assess him to see how far the HIV has damaged his immunity.

Meanwhile, on tonight's incoming trains another set of "Dineshes" will be entering Mumbai. Fueled by our 8% + growth rate. Fueled by hope of a better life. Some with contacts they hope to pursue. Some pursued by fear.

Tonight a few more boys will be added to the unending sprawl of greater Mumbai Urban Agglomoration - over 16 million strong in the census a decade ago. The vast urban stretch that is Mumbai will creak a little more. Most of the boys will meld into the shadows. A few like Dinesh will come in contact with people who care.

Growing up in Mumbai I had a blast. It was a city full of nooks and crannies to explore. Vendours selling old coins at Colaba. Red double-decker busses taking me along Marine Drive with the wind blowing in my face as we looked out the front windows on the upper deck. Cycle tours into the quiet greenery of Borivali National Park.

But then again I was so amazingly blessed to have loving parents who cared for me. To have a lifestyle that is inconceivable to a boy like Dinesh.

Being in the city now is less of a joy. The rosy glasses are off and the sheer horribleness of these fetid mess that we inhabit lingers longer. I certainly don't have many big answers to the issues of our urban blight, but I do know that the more we befriend Dinesh the better. As we step out of our comfort zone and participate in the lives of other 'Dineshes' we can see some changes take place. Our prayers together, our acts of service and mercy, our living life intentionally can and will shape the destinies of so many. And yet as we look we see so few being partnered with in these ways.

Press on.

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