Five fifty five a.m.
The air is already oppressive in its humidity. The stench of decay inflicts itself upon my western sensibilities. Through my nostrils it enters and surges in the pit of my stomach. It is a feeling I haven’t experienced before. I am overcome with this heaving sensation to throw up. I kneel but dry retching is all I can manage. I stand again, somewhat dizzy, determined to keep walking. I place a handkerchief over my nose. A rancid taste fills my mouth.
As I approach the mounts of soil I am confronted with piles and piles of rubbish. I make out food wrappings, bottles, decomposing carcases. I can see a computer monitor and consider the person responsible for discarding this model to update to the newer, faster equivalent.
A cacophony of seagulls hovers, swooping at the scraps of food. The yellow greying sky ominous above.
A truck arrives and comes to an abrupt stop. Wiry, barefoot children jump off and scramble in different directions. They keep in small groups grazing. Their skinny brown bodies talk of their malnourished, worm infested insides. This is an industry that is always hiring. They carry the one tool required of them, a large plastic sack. They taunt each other and call out when a discovery is made. Prized amongst these are the raw materials, glass, paper and plastic. These yield a higher return.
A man appears out of nowhere. His hair greasy and combed back over his balding head, wearing opaque sun glasses, his pace slowed by his protruding gut. He is perspiring and screams at the children to stop talking and keep working. He approaches a young girl; she can’t be older than ten, strokes her hair and leans in to her.
I gawk at him. Lakshmi touches my elbow, letting me know that he is ready to be interviewed.
A few of the children nearby look over in my direction. They are smiling.
Mary Chydiriotis is a social worker and aspiring writer living in Melbourne. Her poems have been published in journals and anthologies both locally and overseas, including Social Alternatives, Garfield Lake Review, Offset, Short and Twisted and Tincture. Chydiriotis has worked with migrants and refugees in the community sector for fifteen years.
Feature Image: Delhi, slum children, Welcome Photo Library, Welcome Images.