“In Shankar Bhuvan, you can find any type of masti (mischief) you are looking for,” says Vishal’s father. “Liquor, gambling, fighting, foul language – It’s always going on in the streets.”
The environment is hardly suitable for raising a family, but Vishal’s mother and father have no choice. With his father as the sole breadwinner, and five mouths to feed, they cannot afford to move out of the Shankar Bhuvan slum.
Vishal has mixed feelings about his community. He has lived in Shankar Bhuvan all his life. He knows how to navigate the narrow labyrinth of alleys, squeezing past wandering goats and stepping over stray dogs who seek shelter from the blazing Ahmedabad sun. He has built a group of trusty playmates who offer him constant company. With his family and friends in the area, Vishal is never at a loss of people to spend time with.
But upon further thought, Vishal begins to reveal the various difficulties in Shankar Bhuvan that he has faced.
Like most residents of the area, Vishal’s family does not have a toilet in their home. They have no other option than to use the riverbank as a mass toilet, along with the thousands of other people and no privacy.
“It’s just not right,” Vishal says. “If I have to go to the bathroom at night, I’m scared to go to the river.”
His face contorts in disgust and distress as he thinks about the conditions.
Although Vishal is playful and often smiling, his manner changes suddenly to one of anger and frustration when he becomes upset. And living among men who drink often, and children with little guidance of what is right and wrong, Vishal is often angered by neighbors who misbehave and speak rudely.
“When the other boys use foul language, I get so mad,” Vishal says. “I lose my head and feel like hitting them.”
Vishal spreads his hands far apart, illustrating how angry he becomes.
“I don’t feel just a little angry,” he says. “I feel very, very angry.”
His EKATVA mentors have coached him in ways to curb his anger and check his physical reactions to those who anger him. But Vishal admits that it is a work in progress.