Below, my pictures from various Indian slums which I shot during my recent trip.
What is the purpose of going to a slum, taking, uploading, and watching such pictures anyway?
It turns out that many people find this sort of activity quite objectionable.
Did I make the slum dwellers feel nice and appreciated when taking their pictures, or did I cause them to lose their dignity?
Are we here for educational reasons, or is it just poverty porn?  Scroll down, take your virtual poverty tour now,
and decide for yourself.
What is a slum? It is a run-down area of a city characterised by substandard housing, squalor, and lacking in tenure security. 
The term was originally used to describe relatively affluent areas that then deteriorated, but now the definition includes informal settlements found in cities in the
developing world, mushrooming in poorer countries.
One billion people worldwide live in slums. By 2030 it is supposed to be 2 billion people. 
Slums emerge as a result of rapid rural-to-urban migration and itinerant employment combined with urban poverty. 
The Annawadi slum in Mumbai for example was created by its inhabitants next to an international airport, where they hoped to be able to get a job.
I took this picture in New Delhi, while walking downstairs from a traffic bridge over rail tracks. The feeble stairs led straight into the
roughest slum I have ever been to.
At that point, the foul smell was beginning to pervade...
Initially I thought the guy in the picture was most likely a drug user, but that kind of eyes can be a result of being exposed to pollution and dust.
So, how does a slum like this one smell? It's years if not decades of amassed odours of human excrement, urine, sweat, disease, general unfreshness, and filth.
I had designated slum shoes and, you guessed it, they didn't return from India. I had to carry them in a separate plastic bag while travelling around the country.
This slum was just shacks made of wood and old advertisements, but slums can also consist of permanent and fairly well maintained structures.
Here the reek was just overwhelming.
As soon as I showed up in that slum, the guy in the middle with no arm and no leg began to make a lot of noise. I looked at him and realised he
was a cripple, and looked away, probably because I was taught that staring at people like that was impolite. But that upset him even more. With his remaining hand he took
his penis out of his trousers, and began urinating in my direction with, I must say, decent accuracy. I was maybe 3m away, but it almost reached me. In the end, I took this picture. Notice
his cheek - I was unable to identify the disease.
India is known to be one of the primary consumers of heroin in the world (along with China, Pakistan, and Iran) , so my guess was this guy was a heroin addict
and had had his limbs removed because of loss of blood circulation. One of the doctors suggested however that the man shows "conjunctival & corneal superficial lesions called Pinguaculae & Pterygium",
caused by the dry and dusty atmosphere, so that explains the eyes.
The slum (and this is another one) is separated from the "overcity" with a double concrete wall, decorated with barbed wire. My guess is that this is to prevent
the slum from growing. As it turns out, this slum is scheduled for removal, and the people are supposed to be given alternative homes. 
As you can see, the slum is growing vertically instead (rather than horizontally), just like refugee camps I saw in Bethlehem.
India hasn't completely solved the problem of slums, but something is happening, as I very briefly describe later.
By the way, the slow bureaucratic machine riddled with corruption
(that kind of works, after all) is referred to as neta-babu raj [2, p. 302] (politicians are neta, civil servants
In 1990s Warsaw became a hub for Romanian Gypsies who arrived in great numbers, to then attempt making it to more wealthy Western Europe, although some stayed.
Some were once smuggled to Germany by Polish people in a stolen Ukrainian military helicopter.  Polish people observed in horror how those
Gypsies communally defecated in public places (and Polish Gypsies were terrified it would ruin their reputation).
In my Transylvania gallery I mentioned that the Gypsies originally came from India, and communal defecation was one thing they
have in common with poor Indians. Well, there you go.
Apparently, there is a widespread belief in India that the excrement of children is less dirty than that of adults, which explains to some extent
the phenomenon you can see in the picture. 
Sometimes described as poorism, slum tourism is, as I previously mentioned, considered objectionable. The concept began in poor sections of London, in the late 19th century,
when wealthy people would go to the poor areas of the city (then Whitechapel or Shoreditch) in order to see "how the other half lived". [9, 10]
Most people claim they visit slums motivated by curiosity, rather than education.  For me it was both, but mainly curiosity and the desire to
experience something different.
That is often criticised as voyeurism, and as robbing slum dwellers of dignity. 
While the people I photographed were usually happy to pose, perhaps they did feel a bit like animals in a zoo. But at least I bought a locally crafted bracelet
(boy, was that a rip-off!).
In my Indian Wedding gallery I mentioned a product called Fair & Lovely, which is sold in India, and lightens the skin.
The huge ad over the street is representative of most ads and commercials in India, where super-pale beautiful people live a perfect life. Actual Indians
look like those below the ad.
According to some estimations, 40% of Indians use skin bleaching products. 
Devil's Acre was a slum in London near Westminster Abbey, where people would go slumming (visiting for tourist purposes), "in which swarms of huge and almost countless population,
nominally at least, Catholic; haunts of filth [...]".  The slum was replaced with new estates in the 19th century.  Generally speaking,
English slums were inhabited until the 1940s, when slum clearance started. 
Lord Shiva on a tile. The wall separates a slum from the city. Shiva is the Destroyer or the Transformer in Hinduism. He is, in fact, the penis god,
worshipped in the form of lingam. He's blue because he drank poison. The serpents he's wearing denote wisdom and eternity. The bull, Nandī, is his mount.
There are many definitions of slums, and what is a slum to you may not be a slum to others. In Toruń, Poland, where my parents live, a large part of the city with
nasty post-communist block of flats is sometimes jokingly referred to as slums.
I wonder what they're cooking. In India, poor people eating rats are not unheard of.
See a blood-chilling video of Untouchable people killing and frying rats as a curry.
Catching rats is apparently a taboo job in India.
Notice they are using their right hands to touch the food - the left one is for cleaning after defecating. 
It's not a very clean place, as you can see. It is safe to assume that in places like that the otherwise valid 5-second rule does not apply.
While in India, I was on malaria tablets, but I kept forgetting to take them.
"If I were a girl, I would be pregnant a lot" (Richard Hammond).
It's not difficult to see that an emergency vehicle wouldn't even fit on that street.
India has restrictions on child labour, but doesn't completely ban it.  Children are not allowed to work in mines (where they are quite useful,
because their small bodies allow them to squeeze and plant explosives in places where a grown-up wouldn't fit), and factories, as well as
hazardous occupations. Many poor children work as scavengers, for instance, and then they risk being put in a detention centre for working. 
Everyone knows that corruption is a bad thing. Or do they... In her nonfiction novel Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo suggests that to many of the India's poorest
corruption is simply "one of few genuine opportunities left". [7, ch. 2]
On the other hand, Mark Tully in India in Slow Motion quotes an American industrialist of Indian origin who said that in other parts of Asia bribes at least get you what you want,
whereas in India there is no end to people demanding bribes, so even corruption doesn't help one's investment being cleared.[2, p. 69]
In my Indian Wedding gallery, I mentioned own source of income that gives some independence, and in my Bedouin gallery I quoted
Christopher Hitchens, who emphasised that women's emancipation was essential to society's growth and well-being. In other words,
support small businesses run by poor women, and you will contribute to their fight for freedom, and their society will benefit too.
Sounds great! But there's a problem - they know this is what we want to hear, and this is what they tell us regardless of whether it's true or not.
It's become a buzzword. In other words, you might be told that you are helping poor women become independent, but this is not necessarily the case.
That sort of eyewash is nicely described in Boo's novel:
"Manju would then be paraded in, as Asha delivered the clinching line: 'And now my girl will be a college graduate, not dependent on any man.'
The foreign women always got emotional when she said this." [7, ch. 2]
In the picture, exuberant slum children.
Other catch-phrases and buzzwords used to obtain your money may include but are not limited to: 'AIDS orphan', 'TB child', or 'When I was the second-hand woman to Mother Teresa [...]'.
[7, ch. 2]
To Mother Teresa lovers I would like to recommend the excellent and thought-provoking
Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens.
Indian government has introduced positive discrimination to support low-caste people, and there are elections where only low-caste candidates are
allowed. The caste isn't visually obvious, so one has to prove their caste descent by producing caste and birth certificates, and somehow prove the ancestry. 
Higher-caste people sometimes forge low-caste certificates to obtain various benefits. 
Fun fact: Paler Indians are genetically quite similar to people from Eastern Europe. 
This was taken in a poor Muslim neighbourhood in Varanasi. The men didn't appreciate our interaction with the women, and in a mildly
unpleasant manner pushed us away (before we could climb up, I guess?).
I was surprised that people with visible diseases were willing to pose, like this guy with a "cloudy cornea and a white cataract",
which, according to one of the doctors I asked, is usually not difficult to fix, but not at this stage.
Speaking of eye-diseases, one of my friends told me that a good way of estimating a society's healthcare quality is to observe
how many people are wearing glasses. None means no or very poor healthcare.
Once you live in a slum, it's difficult to get out, says Katherine Boo. She explains that slum dwellers do not unite or cooperate, instead
they fight against one another. [7, ch. 17]
In India, there are many brothels, also in slums. In fact, there are even some sort of dodgy red light districts (e.g. Kamathipura in Mumbai). Curiously, modern technology
such as mobile phones has allowed prostitutes to maintain their own business without the need of working in a brothel, but that makes HIV-prevention
programmes more challenging. 
Prostitution in India is... legal, actually. But owning a brothel or pimping is not. 
This place was rather unpleasant. Soon I was attacked by a dog, surrounded by two adults and countless children who wouldn't
let me go, almost pushed me into a gutter (yet again), and demanded money. They didn't just say "Money!". They said
"Moneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoney!", all of them. They began pulling and pushing me, scratching my arms; so I had to protect
my camera. I didn't give them any money.
Later I told this story to a European woman I met, and her Indian guide asked me, taken aback: "Well, why didn't you beat one of the children,
as an example?" The easiest solution is always the most difficult one to find!
This is a place where a lot of mechanical workshops are, near Transport Nagar, with feral pigs roaming the area with no respect for anyone or anything.
Some dude offered me a motorcycle ride and I accepted - no helmets, the Indian way.
As I described in my Highlights from India gallery, Hinduism seems to support the division of society into castes, and promote passive
attitude in terms of one's well-being (as opposed to recommending working hard and receiving education to improve one's livelihood). Maybe when you're born again you'll live a better
It's therefore not difficult to see why other religions may seem appealing to the poor. On 19 February 1981, a few hundred Untouchables were publicly converted from Hinduism to Islam, in Meenakshipuram, and that
led to an outburst of Hindu activity. Hindu priests then prostrated themselves before Dalits (another name for the Untouchables), and even feasted with the Untouchables in various temples (where the Untouchables are traditionally
not allowed).[2, p. 159] "Mea culpa".
This is in a pretty random village (and therefore technically not a slum) between Jaipur and Bikaner. Those buffaloes (there were more all over the place) got seriously pissed off in the end, and we had to leave.
After being attacked by kids in another slum, I was surprised to find out those kids were quite welcoming and friendly. They didn't ask for money,
but they did ask for... shampoo, which of course I didn't have with me in my small photo-gear backpack. As seen in the picture,
they don't know it yet, but they are about to get a gift from me!
An additional 50 million people have been added to the slums of the world in the past two years, would you believe? 
Slums aren't going anywhere.
There are many ways to deal with them - upgrading them (the Brazilian way), bulldozing them (the Chinese way), offering slum dwellers alternative accommodations
(to some extent the Indian way). Of course, none of that works really well, because the problem here is not the slums themselves, but the poverty
that causes them to emerge.