From March through July 2017, I blogged about the Pedda Jalaripeta Slum in Favel Issues.
- Resilience of a Slum: What, Why and How?
- Spatial Resilience-Role of Public Space in a slum
- Social Resilience in a Slum- The Social Capital of Pedda Jalaripeta.
- Social Resilience in a Slum- Part 2
- Pedda Jalaripeta- Conclusion
These blogs showcased a slum that survived multiple shocks and emerged victorious every single time. The slum survived a fire in 1983, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and even gentrification. The history of Pedda Jalaripeta is nothing short of miraculous on how the fishermen rebuild their community again and yet again.
In an ethnographic research such as mine, there is no one moment of absolute representation. Ethnographic research is more of a historical inscription of relationships over time. However, I have this one memory from my fieldwork that kind of illustrates the soul of the Pedda Jalaripeta slum.
Here is the story:
My mother-in-law and I were in Pedda Jalaripeta, I had arranged a focus group of younger fishermen in the community at 4:00 PM that afternoon. The focus group was set along the beach with a group of around 10 fishermen. Just as we were about to start the focus group, the light rain turned into a thunderstorm and we decided to call it quits. My mother in law and I started driving out of the community. A few branches fell down on the street and blocked our exit. As the rain and thunder started getting worse, we started contemplating our own mortality (a little dramatic, now that I write it out). We heard voices from the building next door asking us to come out of the car into their house.
We ran into the building seeking shelter, our gracious hosts offered us the best cup of tea of our lives- as we were drinking tea and taking shelter in this 200 sqft house, the 10 YO son shouts that the wind blew away their clothes. The mom responds, “People are losing roofs on their heads, why are you even worried about clothes.” When I asked her to elaborate, she says that her sister’s family lives in a hut along the beach and she is really worried about her sister. Eventually, the rain subdues and we thank our host for the shelter and head home.
Now, this rain and thunderstorm were so insignificant that the rest of our family a few kilometers away didn’t even notice it. But my Mother-in-law and I are scarred for life (again a bit dramatic). The next day, when we came back, the residents were busy cleaning up the beach and were fixing their houses. They were experts at rebuilding and moving on.
This memory is stuck in my mind forever, not because of the trauma I endured (if you can call it that) but because five months after completing my fieldwork and returning to America. A category 4 cyclone Hudhud devastated the city of Vishakhapatnam including Pedda Jalaripeta in October 2014. If a mere rain had such a disastrous effect, imagine the damage of a Category 4 cyclone.
The Hudhud cyclone destroyed 150 houses in the PJ and most of the fishermen in the community lost their boats. Fortunately, no lives were lost since the local government evacuated all the residents to safe houses before the cyclone struck the area. By March 2016, eighteen months after the disaster many of the residents who lost their homes still haven’t received any support to rebuild their houses. Since 2016, I have been looking for opportunities to go back and check out the community after the cyclone. I wanted o to understand how the Pedda Jalaripeta community responded to this natural disaster.
I finally found two young researchers to do a photographic documentary of Pedda Jalaripeta for me. Introducing Swaroopa Andavarapu a medical student based in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India and Hridhay Monangi a high school student based in Fremont, California. This was an opportunity to empower and encourage a new generation of researchers.