Slums and Opportunities

Below is an email that was sent to me from a friend who lives here in Pennsylvania but is originally from the country of India. He brings a unique perspective to everyone he meets because he has not only seen but lived in a country where opportunities are limited. Many Americans do not realize the opportunities afforded us here in America. I wanted to share this email to give you a first hand perspective of those less fortunate.

Dear Greg,

I returned from a week-long trip to India. I spent a week in New Dehli – India’s capital, where I was visiting my family. I just wanted to share with you an image that never ceases to disrupt my sense of reality.

The attached is a picture of a slum behind my father’s home. Let me describe it briefly. It is a slum comprised of the lowest caste of Hindus–you may know them as “untouchables.” They are in the trash collection “business” and unfortunately end up living in the midst of it. As a result of cultural stigma, and little opportunity to work themselves to a higher station in life they end up in these dire circumstances. Their life expectancy averages 45 years of age–most of them end up dying by a more lethal form of tuberculosis.


In the midst of this mess was a child who might have been 3 or 4 years of age who smiled and waved at me. While this sign of life in the midst of poverty and death brought me great joy, it also made me think about her life. Knowing that she had few, if any prospects to make her way out of poverty, made this whole scene that much more dreary.

Let me be clear: the people in the slum do not lack ambition, and are not less able than the average person. There are simply fewer outlets that allow their ambitions and abilities to be realized. For every one that goes on to prosper, there are millions that continue to languish in such squalor. These scenes are common across India.

This is one reason I fight: to show the world that ideas matter. Ideas that respect the individuality and liberty of the person are critical to human flourishing. Ideas that promote free markets and limited government allow people to pursue their dreams and ambitions and, on their own, become productive and empowered citizens.

I’m glad to be back and fight with you and many others.

I look forward to connecting with you soon.



(Disclaimer: I was more optimistic about India this time because a lot had, indeed, changed. No surprise to me though that lower taxes in the city of Delhi, and weeding out corruption coincided with it).

Abhi Samuel, a native of India is the Commonwealth Foundation’s Director of Entrepreneur Engagement.