In the mirror – poverty

What happens to a rich person who suddenly looks into the abyss of poverty. [Guideline]


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India, Mumbai, Slums



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Ich habe die Informationen gelesen und verstanden

You get out of the taxi and realise you’re at the wrong address.

You know the area.

Your office is just a few streets away, with a sea of rubbish, dirt and small shacks in between.

Take a look

You feel the eyes of the people living in the slums on your black suit.

Wealthy people are not welcome here.

You squeere through the crowds, the stench of burnt plastic and rubbish stinging your nose.


A woman sits in front of a pile of rubbish, wrapped in a red sari.

Your eyes meet briefly.

In their eyes: hopelessness.

Avert gaze

You don’t know where to look.

You are surrounded by begging children, old cripples, gaunt youths who eye you from the edge of the street.

What do they want from you?

Your smartphone vibrates.

Looking at the smartphone

15 minutes to go until the meeting.

It’s going to be close. You wipe the sweat from your forehead.

Out of the corner of your eye you notice two men walking up to the woman in the red sari.

Help her and approach her
Get into the next best Auto-Rickscha – just get out of here
Indien, Mumbai, Slums

at the same time

The man with the suit comes towards you.

You look at him again pleadingly and lower your head.


Two years ago you came to Mumbai from the countryside, full of good hopes.

You were just 14, but still you struggled through: on rubbish dumps and in clothing factories.

You came here empty-handed and now you are still empty-handed. The only thing that gives you security is the kitchen knife.

Clasp knife tightly

Being a woman makes everything even more difficult: the nights on the street are life-threatening.

Why did you never have a real chance for a better life?

Born caste-less, die aas one, and work for wholesalers and property owners in between, is that fair?

Look up

The man in the suit is standing right in front of you.

At that moment he is hit in the head from behind and buckles in front of you. His wallet falls out of his hand.

Two men come running towards you. Their looks show no mercy.

Threaten the men with the kitchen knife, call for help
Grab the wallet and run away
Indien, Mumbai, Office

5 years later

You look at the letter from the real estate cartel.

Together they are offering 25 billion rupees for permits to build new flats and office buildings near the city center.

Read more

There has been a huge landscape of cardboards and tin on the properties for years.

Several thousand people would have to be evicted from these slums – their homes – possibly by force.

Put away and look up

Your party colleagues from the Urban Development Committee look at you expectantly.

You are undecided and involuntarily run your hand over the scar on your neck.

Think back

In this very slum you were attacked 5 years ago, but someone saved you from the worst.

Why were these slums not cleared earlier?

Mumbai has become the largest city in world history and at the same time the city where poverty claims the most brutal victims.

Do something about the inhumane conditions without driving people away
Accept the offer – the city urgently needs money for its drinking water system
Indien, Mumbai

30 years later

For years you tried to find the person who saved you in the slum.

Finally, you found what you were looking for: It is the fragile woman lying in front of you with a ventilator.

She still wears the same worn red sari as back then.

Step up to her bedside

Your eyes meet.

She cannot speak because years of working in the smog have almost destroyed her lungs.

But her lively eyes are full of hope and her face contorts into a smile as she points to the window.

Turn head towards window

There are pictures of her children on the windowsill.

They go to school, the oldest daughter is studying at University.

A futuristic silhouette looms outside the window. Mumbai is no longer recognizable, the slums have disappeared.

This is also to your credit, because as a politician you have dedicated your life to the needy.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai, Office

30 years later

You sit in your office and look out over Mumbai.

Your decision to enter into the deal has cost many people their lives.

The woman in the red sari whom you met on that fateful day has not reappeared either.


When it became public that the municipality was clearing the slums for large amounts of dirty money, there were mass protests.

For a short time, civil war-like conditions prevailed in the heart of Mumbai.

The money never turned up.

Clench hand into fist

Frustrated, you joined forces with other young politicians to fight for the expropriation of large landowners.

Having regained the trust of the people through years of dedication, as mayor you now want to fulfil the dream of making Mumbai not only the largest, but soon also the fairest city in the world.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai, Market

2 hours later

You can’t believe it – the wallet is empty except for a few coins and business cards.

Put away your wallet

But then you get lucky – a tourist buys the wallet for 5,000 rupees.

You are excited. Never before have you had so much money in your hand in one go.

What are you doing with it now?

Look around

The smell of fresh chicken curry wafts from the market stalls.

Your stomach begins to growl painfully. For days, you have only fed on the scraps of food you could beg for.

You enter one of the stalls in the bazaar.

Spend the money, it’s easier to survive when your stomach is full
Invest the money and dare to take the risk of starting a small business
Indien, Mumbai, Market

30 years later

You order a fresh curry from the food stall.

As you pay, you pause.

The woman who made the curry looks familiar. This red sari…

Start a conversation with her

She says that she spends ten hours a day preparing food for other people, even though she often forgoes meals herself to get her children through.

With the money left over at the end of the month, she provides for refugees from Bangladesh who have it even worse.

Ask why she is doing this

Her highest hope is that her children will finish school and find a good job.

Ideally, they should become civil servants and never have to enter a slum again in their lives.

Remain silent with embarrassment

She confesses that she abandoned you then and disappeared with your wallet.

She could live well from selling the wallet for several weejs, then she had to live on leftover naan bread again.

Shake head

You vacillate between anger and pity.

You didn’t even notice the missing wallet at the time, you were just glad that you escaped with your life badly injured.

You never entered the slum again but focused on your real estate business.

Now you are rich.

Look out over the market

Mumbai is bursting at the seams, especially the slums, where a wide variety of people live side by side: Migrant workers, farmers who have lost their land to large landowners, and people fleeing floods caused by climate change.

The Indian government is doing its best to alleviate the need, investing in new schools with well-trained teachers.

But there are just too many people.

Look at the woman

You pay for the meal and wish her well. Then you find a place to eat while she continues working.

There is an invisible wall between you that you cannot bridge.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai, Slums

30 years later

You remember the day you had the idea to start a small sewing shop and sell mouthguards.

Along with other women who were destitute, you are now a proud part of the Indian middle class.

But you do not let yourself be blinded.

Look at the road

Mumbai is no longer a misanthropic place, but at the same time it is still poor and polluted.

The city has become even bigger.

Every year, floating tents are erected to offer people shelter from the strong monsoon.

You have been involved by the city in a cooperation that offers free education to people from the slums and frees them from the vicious circle of poverty.

For the first time in your life, you feel that you can make the future a little better.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai, Slums

A moment later

The Auto-Rickscha drives off.

In the driving mirror you see the men overpower the woman in the red sari from behind and drag her around the corner.

A feeling of disgust rises in you.

The ricksha driver looks at you with a strange look.

Get out, enter the tower block, take the lift

A little sweaty, you enter the meeting room.

Your boss is angry that you are not on time again and threatens to fire you.

Hope for the best

But your boss knows about your negotiating skills with the authorities and needs you for his plans to build an expensive residential area in the area of the big slum on the outskirts of the city.

Your boss is giving you one last chance: you will negotiate a good price or you will be out of the job forever.


If you fulfil your boss’s order, the people in the slum will have to make way for the new buildings.

But if you refuse, you will no longer be able to pay the school fees for your children’s public school.

Quit and look for annother job
Follow instructons – quickly go to the Urban Development Committee
Indien, Mumbai, Office

5 years later

After you quit your job at the real estate agency, you switched to politics.

Meanwhile, you are the head of the Competition Authority of India, investigating a big seed company.

recap problem

The multinational corporation from Germany has been selling genetically modified seeds at overpriced costs for years.

Once dependent on these seeds, the farmers have to buy new seeds every year and go into debt. But the yields of the genetically modified plants are too low to compete on the world market.

What happened then

In the so-called suicide belt in the heart of the country, 200,000 farmers have killed themselves in the last 10 years because they no longer knew how to go on living and feed their families.

Make a decision

You want to do something against the company. At the same time, you know that many farmers are completely dependent on genetically modified seeds.

If the group withdraws from the Indian market, a severe economic crisis, possibly even a famine, is imminent.

Impose a billion-dollar fine on the corporation and support the farmers
Do nothing to avoid upsetting the corporation
Indien, In the countryside

8 years later

The sun beats down on your back and your sweat mixes with the seeds you scatter over the dry earth.

For some years now, India’s farmers have been rediscovering the millennia-old tradition of seed cultivation.

The seeds are coping well with the difficult weather conditions and can feed you and your family for the time being.

You rarely hear the unfortune bringing name of the company that drove your father to suicide.

Get up and walk back to the hut

“Mama!” Your son is coming back from the village school, which was recently renovated by the villagers.

You take him in your arms.

You love your child more than anything, even though you think you recognize in him the features of the man who raped you in the slum.


When your son was two years old, you couldn’t stand it in the city any more and returned to your parents that were living in the countryside.

The Indian authorities have acted courageously, pushed back the influence of the big corporations and supported the farmers with a lot of money.

Today, you and your family are standing on your own two feet again.

You are proud that you can contribute to the food supply of your country and hope that one day your son will also take up farming.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai

5 years later

A flimsy corruption charge landed you in prison.

You suspect that the seed company is the driving force behind this. They probably saw you as a potential threat to their flourishing business on the Indian subcontinent.

Look through the barred window

You don’t know how the world is developing outside, but what’s coming through the prison walls does not sound good. Apparently, the big corporation has further raised the prices of seeds.

Additonally, there are the droughts intensified by climate change, which do not allow the seeds to emerge.

You bitterly regret that you didn’t take on the company back then. You want to make up for the mistake, but for now you’re stuck here for the next few years.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai

30 years later

The air-conditioning is on full blast and yet the sweat soaks through your suit and mixes with the rose water you have generously spread under your armpits.

You wish you could take a shower again, but the water supply in the city has come to a standstill.

Leave the office

Finally, you hear the rotors of the air taxi.

Too late again.

You get in and take off.

Look down on the city

Below you, several hundreds of people are filling the streets.

Among them are locals who cannot find a place in the few remaining slums, but also refugees from Bangladesh who lost all their belongings in the terrible floods caused by the monsoon last year.

You haven’t set foot on the ground for years, because there’s inches of dirt on the streets.

Prepare for the arrival

You enter the meeting room.

Meanwhile, no one opens their mouths when you are late for a meeting because you have been the boss of the real estate company for 5 years and are one of the richest people in India.

Inquire about the current situation

“We’ve lost another important customer,” says a staff member.
“The security situation in Mumbai is getting worse by the day. Again and again homeless people have been occupying vacant flats for weeks.”

Let the homeless stay there until the situation improves
Call the police to evict the homeless from your houses
Indien, Mumbai

A moment later

Your co-workers look at you in surprise.

They are not used to so much empathy from you.

They don’t know that you still have a guilty conscience because of the thing with the woman in the red sari.

Look down at the ground

All your life you have focused on your career. Your children study at elite universities in the United Kingdom, you have a lot of money.

But still, you are not happy.

End meeting

You stay alone in the office.

All your money is not enough to get rid of the smog from Mumbai. To get fresh water.

No amount of money can free you of the feelings you have when you think of the woman in the red sari.

Secretly, you hope that she is one of the illegal squatters and that, thanks to your decision, she now at least has a roof over her head.

Finish story
Indien, Mumbai

5 hours later

You are back in your flat. Exhausted, you let yourself fall into your armchair. You drink too much, says the voice in your head. “Too much stress,” you grumble.

Wash down three sleeping pills with lots of beer

At the same moment you hear the sound of a smashed window. Someone is standing in your kitchen.


It’s a woman in a worn red sari with a knife in her hand. You have seen her somewhere before.
You reach for the gun next to the armchair, but at that moment the sleeping pills kick in.

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