India Day 3 – Real Slums, Real Hope and Real Frustration. (Part One)

Today was hard. Really hard. We went to the office for a briefing before meeting the children of the health program and I honestly was not prepared. The kids we met yesterday were fabulous. Funny, interesting, interested and full of hope. These kids were a different story. 

We pulled up outside the slum area in our white van. There was a pile of rubbish there where people were going to the toilet right in front of us. There was human feaces every where and tiny children walking around naked in it. They were alone, naked and walking around in a pile of human secretions. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.

 We got out of the car and were led through this maze of ramshakle huts. It was damp and every two steps smelt like something different – sulfur, rain, incense, vomit, garbage, spices, piss, sewerage, farm animals. We were led down the back of the community houses to an expanse of garbage. We walked down this slippery hill, realising that we were walking on a sodden path of discarded clothing. 

Six mismatched chairs were brushed and arranged for us to sit on, facing a carpet of the most filthy children I’ve ever seen and also some of the cleanest, considering that they literally live in garbage. There was a little girl picking at a scab on her leg with a rusty safety pin and I couldn’t stop watching her methodical stabbing. The community theatre group performed a street play for us about HIV and blood transfusions. They were amazing performers.

The funny thing about everyone in India is that no matter how poor you are, or where you live, you always wear your very best clothes and jewellery. Their dedication to their appearence is extraodinary. There was something so dignified about these little girls living in the most severe poverty, yet their wrists jangled with bracelets and their hair was neatly groomed with clips and headbands. I’m never going to write in my tracksuit pants again. 

This group of boys fascinated me. I wandered away from our little group and asked to take their photos. They posed for me. I just kept thinking about the boys back home in Australia in their early 20s and what they would be doing. Driving their cars, taking girls out on dates, going to university, getting drunk on the weekends and buying fast food. The boy in the blue pants really looked at me. Like he knew that I knew there was something better out there. He wouldn’t look out of place in a slick suit at a funky bar in Melbourne but instead he lives here with the garbage and pigs and dying dogs. It just doesn’t seem right, you know?

Eden and I making our ‘Thank god we got our immunisations!‘ faces. We felt like total arseholes but we all wanted a bath in hand santiser when we left. It was just so filthy. We could all taste it for hours after we left and it felt like the whole experience had seeped into our pores.

The boys loved Eden and wanted photos with her. 

Then it was my turn. 

I’ve been on the look out for monkeys the entire time because Mr Smaggle is obsessed with them. Misho excitedly pointed out this guy to me. He was tied to a cart and the kids were playing with him. It made me miss my man terribly because he would have been so excited to have been there.

This is Sonum. We were there to hear her story. Before World Vision began to work in their area she was a rag picker and would spend all day in the garbage sifting out plastic and tin. She’s cutting back on her rag picking and goes to World Vision for study. She told me she wants to be a doctor when she grows up because her people are at the bottom of the pecking order in hospitals and they rarely get treatment. She says when she’s a doctor, her people will be at the top of the list.

Our Sam translating for Sonum and I. 

There’s so much to write about and just not enough time.

Bear with me.

Love to you all.

Thank you for reading.


To sponsor a child visit World Vision Australia. 

Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. Maria Nieto 4 years ago

    You must be having the most amazing experience in India. I hope you really enjoy it, my mother says her time there changed her completely!

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      India certainly does change you. x

  2. Anonymous 4 years ago

    I have sat for 10 minutes hovering over the comment button, not knowing what to say. I’m following your journey with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Love and light to all of you x

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      Thank you my love. This message was beautiful to read on my phone in the 30 seconds of internet we got at the airport!x

  3. Smags, always knew you were the biz … confirmed it right here. Love your guts. x

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      Thank you my dear! Late on replies on this post but just coming back around to deal with India again. 😉

  4. Mrsceeeceee 4 years ago

    Jeez. This post stopped me dead in my tracks. Thanks for sharing x

  5. Vicky Finch 4 years ago

    Words defy me right now. They have since I read Eden’s post this morning. I just don’t understand the world at all.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      It’s just insane. Sam was telling us that 80% of the wealth in India is owned by just ten people.

  6. World Vision Australia 4 years ago

    Thank you for writing this Carly. We’re following your journey closely, it’s almost as if we’re there with you! It’s little stories of hope like Sonum’s that keep us going. x Carla

  7. A-M 4 years ago

    those boys. seeing those beautiful young men… with nothing. oh the tears. i have boys. i immediately thought of my boys. those boys SHOULD be at uni and dating girls and going out on weekends … with a wonderful life ahead of them to look forward to. the world is so unfair. xx

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      The boys just completely undid me. I was obsessed with them.

  8. Danielle O'B 4 years ago

    What an experience. I’m in Vietnam right now and it blows my mind the way that some people are living. And yet the children smile and wave and they carry on… There has got to be something more that we can do.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      I guess ignorance is bliss. These kids don’t have TVs or magazines or anything so they don’t really realise the difference between their lives and ours.

  9. S Lynn 4 years ago

    My heart is thumping with emotions. I can’t really identify which ones. I know I am feeling guilt as I sit here in my comfortable heated lounge room reading your article. You are doing a good thing … Letting people know xo

  10. Sugandha 4 years ago

    It breaks my heart to see the children of my country live like this and I marvel at the baby inside me and think of the world of difference there is between them. I just want to say thank you for going there and showing people that while circumstances are dire, there is still room for smiles and laughter.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      It’s so hard to watch I’m completely inspired.

  11. Anonymous 4 years ago

    Powerful words, Carly. I’m glad there is hope amongst all the dreadful poverty. Thank you so much for sharing it with us xx

  12. Natasha 4 years ago

    It’s terrible how so many people in developed countries think that most people basically live like them while the truth is that most people in the world actually live like this. I live in South Africa and there’s so many people living in shacks like this, it’s horrible.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      I feel so rich for lack of a better a word and like a total twat for ever havinh wanted more.

  13. Anonymous 4 years ago

    Keep the stories coming, Carly. Love Sonum’s story. You are doing such good work. xx

  14. Emma Stirling 4 years ago

    Just reading all your India posts now Carly and most moved by this one. You are doing such an amazing job using your voice.


  1. […] This Australian blogger is visiting India for World Vision. Follow her week: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 {Smaggle} […]

  2. […] was the project that really inspired me to sponsor a child. Anything to keep them out of urban slums. It’s so worth it. It’s all about […]

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India Day Two – Child Journalists, Sight Seeing and Diwali.

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