this is from the summer i spent in bombay (2009), when I was living in dharavi and part of a research project on an unregistered slum near reay road station (i’ll call this community RR).
as many of you may know, i am pretty attached to my sunglasses. not attached in the sense that i have a favorite pair – because a single pair of sunglasses rarely lasts me long enough to form that kind of connection with them. but, for the most part, they live on my head or in my face and, India being a sunny place, seem a perfectly reasonable part of my attire here. to be honest, i think they are appropriate attire in just about any weather or degree of darkness (along with corey hart, though for different reasons).
imagine my consternation, then, when we arrived in RR and kiran, one of my research partners, suggested that i not wear my sunglasses. he explained that people would take it as a mark of celebrity and they would be less likely to talk with me. so, now when kiran and i ride into RR, i obliging take off my sunglasses just before we turn into the community and slip them out of my bag – and put them back on the second we turn out of the community at the end of the work.
indeed, sunglasses do seem to carry a considerable amount of status – for something that i am pretty sure you can buy cheaply on the street here. they are a major point of ‘conversation’ at breakfast at the home where i am staying. a good chunk of breakfast time is spent with different people trying on the sunglasses (generally referred to as ‘googles’), me taking pictures of assorted people wearing the sunglasses, then passing around the camera so everyone can see said pictures and have a good laugh over the precise thing that they had just witnessed. this, at least so far, seems to provide endless amusement.