Aavjo [Gujurati] : meaning : goodbye, see you soon, come back soon
I leave India with many new friends and strong ties that will see me pulled back to Ahmedabad again. On my last day in India I walked back through Tekra to say aavjo to friends, check on the preschool and take some photos as demanded by the children who love my camera.
Little Paras (pictured above) will be attending Bholu 15 some day in the next few years, although it is unsure whether the building will still be standing: this area is slated for clearance by the government soon. The threat of demolition is constant, with the government attempting to rehouse residents of Tekra into apartments as part of the "slum free India" campaign. One hopes these apartments are as spacious and well appointed with amenities as the success stories, but it is hard to know whether the apartment buildings or infrastructure surrounding them are designed with these residents in mind.
According to UN-Habitat, around 33% or the urban population in the developing world live in informal settlements: an estimated 863 million people. These statistics beg the question of what is "normal" housing. It is easy, as a foreigner, to either romanticise the ingenious creations and lively street life of informal settlements or write them off as filthy places that need to be removed. I don't have the answers to the complex and immense problems faced by our rapidly urbanising population, but I have learnt a lot form getting to know the families of Bholu 15 living in Tekra: they are who I would be if I was born into a different situation.