First Impressions of Kerala
(Miraculously, we didn’t die; our cab driver (and all the other drivers on the road) turned out to be experts at narrow misses.)
After a few minutes in the cab, I relaxed a little about our impending death and took in what we could see of Kerala.
The first thing that hits you is the air. The combination or air pollution and humidity makes it nearly tangible. It settles on your skin; it almost felt like I could peel it off as if it were the dried Elmer’s glue I used to peel off my fingers when I was in elementary school.
Next come all the colors. The houses, stores, billboards, and painted street signs were painted ridiculously bright colors in combinations that no color wheel I’ve ever seen would suggest. And this is coming from someone whose bedroom was, for about 6 years, painted orange with blue horizontal stripes.
Another thing that is soon noticeable is the disparate levels of poverty and wealth that coexist side by side. At times, glimpses of poverty stuck out from backdrops of economic development; we saw a family of squatters living in the wall-less skeleton of a building just a few yards away from a brand new high-rise hospital. Farther out from the urban centers, this contrast was inverted. Large and luxurious homes, even my suburban Maryland expectations, were bordered by strings of small kiosks made of sheets of corrugated steel or tarps and sticks.
It was these striking juxtapositions that we encountered along the road that reminded me why projects like Rainwater for Humanity are necessary. Our project addresses one of the most basic problems of poverty – access to clean water – but does so in a way that encourages economic development. R4H employs local workers to construct and maintain the tanks and increases the amount of time residents of the village have to generate income. These aspects of the project don’t simply put a band-aid on poverty in India but instead address the deeper issues underlying it. If projects like ours increase their presence in Kerala, hopefully it will no longer be possible to see such stark contrasts in wealth in such a small area; instead it may be possible to see equal levels of economic development throughout Kerala.