About 85 percent of the incidents described in the book were “directly observed by a team member,” and about 75 percent of quotations were recorded with an audio recorder, according to explanatory notes provided by Lockhart and Chama. The rest of the story was pieced together using interviews. It was still unnerving to hear an author’s imagination at work at times.
Lockhart and Chama are unrecognised characters who appear in the story only in passing. “Outreacher” Chama tries her best to break through the hard shells of the street kids she encounters. He has a strong belief in the power of small good deeds in this bleak world of beggars and prostitutes. An NGO veteran, Lockhart is sceptical of happy endings and “the white man” in the NGO community. It’s hard to believe that a small act of kindness can make a big difference in a place like this.
The outcome of the debate is clear at the end of the book. In “Walking the Bowl,” the author depicts a series of moral catastrophes. The rich get richer while the rest of us are left in the lurch. A river of international aid flows into NGO offices, where workers compare notes on the plight of desperate children and bask in their own self-congratulatory euphoria.
After laying everything out, “Walking the Bowl” chooses not to engage in any sort of debate or critical analysis. There’s more to this story than just a detective story: the fleshy, sticky smell of a subtropical bus station and grimy windows and dark hallways of a police precinct. It illustrates the ripple effect of oil price fluctuations on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. They are alive with energy.
It is primarily the story of children who have managed to survive despite the most dire of circumstances. Their voices aren’t always what we’d expect them to be. When Lusabilo discovers the body of the child, he surveys the mountains of trash that surround it with a jovial practicality. The scavenger children relied on one another to keep things running smoothly, to maintain invisible boundaries and unspoken norms, according to the narrator.
Because he is aware that the dump’s younger residents look up to him, he has no concept of his own deficiency. It doesn’t matter how “scrawny worker bees with twig arms and burned-out bodies” they are, he is proud to be part of a network. Lusabilo tells us that despite their poverty, they have a strong sense of community. A person who is connected to others is not alone.