Earlier this month, we scanned the streets of Dharavi for some health signs. Our participants, led by Khushboo Bharti, then came up with their own health signs that we put across areas in Dharavi. We put up these colourful signs at chemist shops, near garbage bins, at a ironing man’s stall and on the gates of buildings. Some were random places really. Some, however, were calculated.
As we went around pasting the health signs and getting our hands dirty, we received varied reactions from the locals. Most of them empathized with the messages in the signs and discussed the issues with us. But that was not before they gave a good piece of their mind to those present and those absent – namely us, the government and the municipal corporation. Their honest feedback was that while awareness campaigns are seen in the area, very little change has occurred. One lady who lived off 60 Feet Road specially pointed to a gutter and said how it hasn’t been repaired for years together. There is a general feeling of grievance against public bodies felt in the area since they feel neglected and exploited. Thus, we could understand their initial faithlessness in us and our signs.
But we do believe that we did our very best in communicating about health to the locals. Perhaps, the first step to public hygiene is to start at the personal level and develop a civic sense as well.
We were a little wily in pasting anti-alcoholism posters outside a tea-stall. Some of the participants very sincerely asked us if we should paste them outside the several bars that we see around Dharavi. But, how would that work? The posters would be taken down the minute we put them up outside a liquor shop. That is, if we are allowed to paste those signs there in the first place.
We thought we were successful in pasting the anti-alcoholism posters outside the tea-stall. The people looked at us curiously and for a moment we though our strategy would work! When we walked past the stall a few days later, we found the posters missing. Well, nobody said we weren’t resilient.