What Is A “Safe Environment”?
By Pihu Saraff
Class 9 Student, Bangalore
Foreword by Venkat
White pepper moths are better visible (and more vulnerable to predators) on dark barked trees. Such moths will understand safety better than black pepper moths on dark trees with lesser reasons to fear. Pihu comes again in her second article, power-packed with thought provoking questions to ponder over. She explores the living conditions of the slum dwellers in the city and discovers the hard realities of their lives. While there are organizations that work hard to bring support and care, there seems a lot to be done still. Not just in the support channels but in realigning the perception of the privileges which many of us may take for granted. The best lever to bridge the divide between the rich and poor is in changing the mindset and not in material or financial distribution. Pihu is spot on in her persuasion to open one’s eyes to the lives in the slums who gasp for shelter and as insecure as the white pepper moths on dark barked trees.
Brace up for some stunning questions on life as you go through Pihu’s bold exploration of the slums in a wonderful exposition of her message.
My name is Pihu and I study in grade 9. I love writing regarding things I feel passionately about. I also enjoy reading and watching movies. I would like to pursue journalism when I’m older as I possess a strong desire to make a difference in the world.
What Is A “Safe Environment”?
What is a “Safe Environment?” Being a vast and subjective term, it could mean different things to different people depending on certain factors. Regardless of its definition, a safe environment is one’s birth right. For many, a safe environment is created by the opportunity to receive an education and live in a place with all the necessary amenities. For us, the privileged class, it is no question that such an environment has always been available by default and it is unimaginable to even picture a scenario where it would be otherwise. However, for the approximately 500,000 people in Karnataka living in slums, this scenario which may seem so foreign to us is a reality.
In an attempt to understand more about how the people in these slums live – something which many of us have been sheltered from, in our whole life, I spoke with one of the founders of “Swapaksh,” Miss Ajanta. Swapaksh is a social initiative started to bring quality education to the doorstep of underprivileged communities. They currently have a centre located in a slum in Bellandur where volunteers work with children who are out of school for shocking reasons. These reasons include their parents wanting them to lead a domestic lifestyle, taking care of the house and doing the chores. Some of the parents didn’t feel safe enough sending their children to school alone while they were at work. Children as young as eight to ten years old were sent to their villages to work. Unfortunately, many were pulled out of school and married too young. The slum which is home to 6,000 residents is coincidentally located behind a luxury apartment complex. The two are so close in distance but couldn’t be farther apart in terms of safety, showcasing the clear divide between the rich and the poor.
The living conditions in these places were described to me. Miss Ajanta recalled stories of seeing young children exposed to violence, substances and alcohol. She recalled an incident when a child hadn’t showed up to the school that day, she soon heard he was playing and had tragically fallen into a drain. With Swapaksh, the children have a safe place to receive an education and enjoy their childhood.
After speaking with some domestic workers in my community who live in low-income housing areas, I learnt of how we as the privileged class can help. They explained how initiatives like Swapaksh and NGOs which aim to achieve social welfare and security are very effective in achieving the previously established definition of a safe environment in their communities. Charity although helpful is not as sustainable or long-lasting, but is a good step that one can take in the hopes of helping them. Volunteering, in clean up movements for low-income housing areas, initiatives like Swapaksh and other forms of social work is an excellent way of giving back and showing that we care.
Not being in positions of authority, it is difficult for us to make any significant change but taking small steps is very rewarding and helpful. Donating to trusted organizations is also effective as an alternative to charity. Swapaksh has many dedicated volunteers who work to better the lives of the the underprivileged.
We must be mindful of these people’s situation, and take into consideration the challenges they endure on a daily basis. It is crucial for us to realize our privilege and open our eyes to situations like the slums of our cities which although are right in front of us, go unnoticed because of the bubble in which we live. The next time you find yourself heading to school dreading the day that lies ahead, roll down the window of your chauffeur driven car and look around you, and at the children who cannot go to school, because we are more privileged than we realize. It is important to recognize one’s privileges and give back to the community in whatever way possible.
By Pihu Saraff