All I did during those few months was explore, try, fail, try again, and cultivate a ferocious appetite for learning everything I could about how the world worked within my area of interest. Every morning, I managed to bring a storm of enthusiasm to the grimy, hot, mosquito-infested flat that was our project office. Every day, I managed to bring together my tiny project team and people from our target slum community, start discussions, and generate a few tentative ideas to test. ... And then I got tired ...
Not disillusioned, just tired. I didn't have any illusions of grandeur about the project that I was doing: a test run of a slum development platform intending to experiment with new ideas, see if something clicked, analyse failures, and suggest ways forward. Disillusionment implies certainty in one's assumptions about how the world worked. I made no such assumptions. In fact I was excited about immersing myself in novel ground realities, curious even about roadblocks.
Every instance of harassment by the municipal corporation or a visit to a government clerk in the back corridors of the State secretariat made me feel like I was on a sting operation; I drank in the seamy details as if I were collecting the material required to be another Upamanyu Chatterjee. I amused myself by taking 'stealth' pictures of government offices, the legendary piles of paperwork, and the well known cliche of the constantly dozing government official - see left.
There are few in India that have faith in the efficiency or ethics of governments, NGOs, or even corporates. Indians are among the most cynical people I know, and most of us derive a perverse pleasure out of discovering and discussing exactly how messed up many of our social and political institutions are. This brand of humour that Indians direct at their own political mechanism through daily conversation, public debate, literature, film, and music, is cynical, bitter, dark, and thoroughly enjoyable; similar to that in Eastern Europe for example.