Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reaching out

As I renew my career as a journalist, scouting for favourable stories, I have had some tremendous experiences these last three months, meeting people from all walks of life, doing all kinds of things. I have made some good friends and good contacts...and I have had the opportunity to write the kind of stories I've always wanted to write.

Most times I go to meet my story subjects alone. I am usually overwhelmed by the state of the underpriveleged children I meet, proud of their guardians and those Indians, who in a small measure are doing humungous acts....

Through all this, I often think if my children will be able to appreciate the goodness in a human heart (that to my delight, still EXISTS), if they will not get trapped in material pursuits and be able to look at an underpriveleged child with care and love...

On Saturday, I took my children to meet young Pooja whose story I am going to feature in the newspaper. She is 10 and helps her mother run a little tea stall outside Simbiosis College. She has a brilliant mind and wants to study. Her mother wants her to study as well. But she is all her mother has for support to run the tea stall. So she skips school many times.

When I asked her about her father, tears rolled down. "He beats me when I do something wrong or nothing wrong." I give her a hug and tell her that she is brave girl for wanting to go to school despite the problems at home. My daughter watched her and I saw a look of surprise and empathy on her face.

As I talked to the mother, a series of actions followed.

Oorja gave the girl Rs 10. It is money that the tooth fairy had left for her and she has been saving it all up. The girl felt shy but as I encouraged her to buy "pencils etc" with it, she took it. A few minutes later, Oorja gave her another ten rupee note....another one from her savings.

A little while later, she asked me, "Mama, can I give her my hair band?" She was wearing one...and as I said "Yes, if you'd like to," off it came and went to Pooja.

As we drank tea at the stall and chatted, Oorja came to me and whispered, "Can I play with her?" I nodded in assent. Before she could ask Pooja, a deluge of customers converged. Mother and daughter got busy and she did not have the opportunity to ask Pooja to play with her. As I took leave, Oorja requested me, "Please tell her that next time I will come to play with her."

What I witnessed was an eight year old child's desire to reach out to this young girl...somehow...anyhow. The best manner in which she could convey her empathy was to share her prizest possessions with Pooja.

Just as we bade our goodbyes Abhir chipped in with, "We will call her home for my Birthday Party" following in his sister's footsteps.

I am still gleaming with pride.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Opening a Pandora's Box

Sometimes children tend to open your mind to issues you’ve never given a thought to before.

The other day, I was taking the kids to their Day Care, while the building sweeper, who also collects the garbage from our apartment, was doing his job.


Suddenly shaken out of the jumble of what-I-have-to-do today, the-people-I-have-to-call, appointments to fix etc cluttering my mind, I was dumbfounded and muttered, “I don’t know dear.”

But why did he become a sweeper? Does he like handling garbage?”

For the past few weeks, we have been talking a lot about 'What I'd like to be when I grow up'. So she could not fathom why he would WANT to be a sweeper.

Thankfully, there's some time before she realises the compulsions of "doing" something that we may not necessarily "like" or "want".

I also felt a trifle guilty. She believed that garbage collecting was a menial that would not necessarily make the person doing it, happy or satisfied. There is an element of truth in the latter part.

But as parents we are very careful to avoid expressing disdain for any job. We clean our bathrooms, clean our car, sweep/swab/do the dishes etc when the maid is away…anything and everything that should not make them feel that any job is below their dignity. How did our daughter end up with this impression????

On the other hand, I met a lady who believes that rag picking should also be banned by Civic authorities. "If we produce the garbage, we should also be responsible for disposing it. Why should we expect someone else to clean our muck for us?" But then, what does that do for the livelihood of such people? Too many perspectives to the same issue.

At the moment, I know that I am immensely gratified at Oorja's thought process and I hope she continues to 'think' and after she grows up, becomes a 'doer' of concrete actions as well.