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.

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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.

Best,

Abhi

(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.

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2 thoughts on “Slums and Opportunities

  1. Greg, Very insightful. How often we take our privileges for granted. I remember a movie about India called something like “dog millionaire” depicting life in the slums of India. I love our country and what it stands for. Let’s work hard to make sure it does not succumb to the ravages of corruption and elitist warfare. Rock on brother!

  2. Good post Greg! It is examples like the one Abhi gives above, which would serve most Americans well to read… Americans, who maybe have not had the chance to travel abroad and see how most of the rest of the world lives. At the risk of sounding snide, the US is the only place (that I’ve seen) where we have overweight poor folks. We are the only place where someone considered poor, might just have the older model flat screen TV and not the latest hi-def version. Of course we are a not perfect country and we are not above reasonable criticism, but more and more people have lost sight of just how well your average American lives in comparison to what many people in the world do to simply survive. I also very much appreciate the point Abhi makes in identifying some of the reasons we as Americans have been able to prosper : Free markets and limited governmental controls set on business and personal lives. The fight to maintain these and other tenets set forth by our founding fathers, must continue!

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