Nairobi, March 17 – “The dream is free, but the hustle… the hustle is sold separately.” Those were the words of my ballet teacher in the sprawling slums of Korogocho, Nairobi. I had burst into tears after a rigorous dance rehearsal.
I was once young and naive, when play and merry was the greatest worry. And in my innocence, I was oblivious of the hardships that were nothing short of my birthright. But now, in my early teenage, the veil of childhood was wearing off. I could see it all.
Little did my teacher know, it was not the ballet classes that were making me cry. It was the big obstacles that stood on my path of becoming a celebrated ballet dancer. Today, when I look back in retrospect, the same melancholic feeling comes creeping. I sigh.
It is a meditative sigh for all the gifted children in the ghetto whom may never break-through like a few of us did. Those kids having great dreams and an unflinching determination. Unfortunately the script is similar, only the actors change. From Korogocho, Nairobi to Soweto, South Africa. Calcutta, India to Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, the script stubbornly never changes.
A script of pipe dreams and aborted futures. It is in the slums that you will find amazing poets whose works shall never see a print-room, and the best melodies that will never get opportunity to do studio recording. It is the ghettos where the most amazing actors will never be crowned an Oscar in a fabulous gala dinner.
Surprisingly, the ghetto has the greatest stories of resilience and passion. Stories of overcoming and becoming, as we try not to disappoint those who look up-to us. So whenever I get strolling across a stream of raw sewer in a slum, when I come across a kid with a passion for photography, I am moved by admiration and concern. Bumping into a talented footballer, or painter in a shanty suburb, one question lingers; Will the world ever grant them the opportunity to be…?