I've recently read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It's a true story following the lives of a number of people in Mumbai, India, who live in a slum near the international airport. The title comes from the billboard at one edge of their slum, which promises 'Beautiful Forevers' to those passing through the airport. There was much that was challenging in the book, but the thing that really got me was the size of the dwellings.
The main family we follow in the book live in a hut so small that several family members sleep outside every night. There is simply not enough space on the floor for the whole family to lie down flat.
If you removed the bath from just one of our bathrooms, there would be plenty of space for all three people who live in my house to lie flat. And that's just considering one of our bathrooms - we have a separate toilet, another bathroom, three double
bedrooms, a separate kitchen and a large lounge/dining
area as well! No one in our house is going to be sleeping on the bathroom floor any time soon; let alone under the stars.
When brought up short by realities like this, I sometimes wonder if we should just give everything away.
If I became homeless, I'm pretty confident I wouldn't live all that long. That's my explanation for why severe CFS/ME seems basically unknown outside relatively wealthy communities: people like me are just too fragile to survive elsewhere. But what right do I have to live a good life when my sister who develops CFS/ME in a Mumbai slum dies soon after becoming ill? No right, obviously: God loves us both equally, and it's only chance that means I was born here and she was born there.
So far our response to questions like this has been to live simply (at least with respect to what would be possible on Martin's salary - our lifestyle is hardly simple by global standards!) and invest what's left over into helping our neighbours.
But right now, when I look at our bathroom and think how many people could sleep in it, it all just feels outrageous.
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