College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota
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A slum in the eyes of students

We arrived at Katha in the late morning, which is an innovative school for the under served children in some of the informal settlements in Delhi. A group of about 20 students from Katha was there to welcome us. The students went around and introduced themselves and told us where they lived. Then we all introduced ourselves and told them about Minnesota. We were all assigned to accompany a small group of students, who were instructed to show us their homes, their favorite place, and something they would change in the community.

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My group had the pleasure to spend time with five students that had ages ranging from 16 to 19, but were all seniors in high school. The students seemed eager to lead us down the small and narrow streets of the informal settlement of Govind Puri. Our first stop was at the home of their friend. The friend's mother invited us into their home and told us her family of five has been living there for more than 20 years. She said she is a housewife and moved to this settlement from her previous settlement as the result of an arranged marriage. We asked her what she aspires for her children and she said she wants them to work for the government and have a good life but ultimately be proud of who they are and live up to their family name.

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Next, the students brought us deeper in the maze of roads to the market. Many shops were set up along both sides of the crowded street. We watched a jewelry maker practice with copper before using silver. As we navigated farther down the street one student was got very excited to show us the fish market because this was his favorite place to be. He liked how the fish market was always crowded, however some of the students disliked the market for the same reason. We the spent some time talking to other people in the market about what they liked and disliked.

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The last spot the students brought us to before returning to Katha was the place they would like to change--the public bathroom. We walked down a couple stairs to the bathroom entrance and the ground quickly changed to wet and dirty. Trying to step over puddles to navigate our way to the actual bathroom was nearly impossible due to the layer of water and dirt on the floor. When we finally reached the bathroom we could see why this was something the students would like changed. They told us the government is supposed to clean it, but the sight and smell make it apparent that this has not been done in a while.

The students led us back to Katha where we went to the roof and got to get to know each other a little better. I think it was such a great experience to see Govind Puri through the eyes of the students we spent the morning with. They were so willing and excited to share their culture and knowledge with us. It made me feel very welcome and safe in an unfamiliar place.

-Caitlyn Deutsch


 


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