Where are the bats? The darkness? Why are these two cave-dwelling examples more about urban chic than an honest attempt at starkness?
Daniel Suelo has been described as a “48-year-old hermit from Utah”. Eight years ago he decided to stop using money. For the past three years he has been living in a cave. His eureka moment came when he went on a trip to Alaska. His friend and he “speared fish, ate mushrooms and berries and lived very well. Then we hit the road, hitchhiking, and realised how generous people were”.
Now this is being glorified. How many people do you know of who have given up materialism, live away from ‘civilisation’, and yet manage to reach out? Mr. Suelo has succeeded in portraying himself as one who lives without government handouts. Yet, he goes to a public library to record moments of his “punishing lifestyle”. He is a hero during times of recession because he has got no money, so he cannot lose it. Ho-hum.
This charade reeks of disdain in a world where qualified people are laid off. Where skilled labour in some societies has to subsist on minimum wages. Where people do not have water, forget fish to find in it.
There was a report a year ago about a foreign tourist who lived in a cave in the mountain regions of Kullu a tourist town in Himachal Pradesh. After losing her passport 8 years ago, Dimitri subsisted by soliciting money, food, and other essentials.
No one quite knew where she was from, though the cops said, “She has been living here for last many years.”
And how has that been possible? She did serve a seven month term for being without documents, but why was she still there with the knowledge of the cops? If her police records showed she was from Italy, then on what grounds did that country refuse to accept her?
What I find even more intriguing is that she declined to interact with Indians and begged only from foreigners. Ah, and they say beggars can’t be choosers.
Is there a need to romanticise such stories? There are millions of people who are homeless and do not have the choice of who they beg from and how they file their routines for internet posterity. This cave identity just does not convey a fraction of the squalid conditions of people who live in the open or in pipes.
I’ll any day take bats over manipulative batty.
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Here is a recent piece I wrote: A Tale of Two Slums