At India Ink / NYT:
It was while stepping over the channels of ochre fluid that run between the raggedly cascading apartment blocks that make up the Mumbai slum known as Cheeta Camp that James Potter discovered a real-life version of what could be a scene out of a magical realist novel by Salman Rushdie: a toilet facility that gets built and then torn down again, always on the verge of being finished, but never usable.
“Five or six people circled around to tell me the tale of the perpetually about-to-open toilet. Apparently, for the last 15 years or so, the toilet had been built, demolished and rebuilt three times,” said Mr. Potter, a Hindi-speaking student who is pursuing his master’s degree in public health at Harvard.
Each time, local politicians claimed that the lavatory facility would open “after the elections,” but that never happened. Instead, the residents told Mr. Potter, the government workers would just tear it down and start to build a new one next time the elections rolled around. “The neighbors didn’t have any expectation that the current structure would be opened any time soon,” said Mr. Potter.
Mr. Potter was one of a dozen students from the Harvard School of Public Health who traveled to Mumbai in January to research life in the city’s slums. More:
Also read in Harvard Magazine: Into India