Independence Day

15_aug_1405wAugust 15th is Independence Day in India.  Our girls danced in the school program.   At other Independence Day celebrations I’ve been a guest, or speaker, or sponsor.  But this time I was a parent, rushing the kids out the door because WE got the time wrong,  pinning sashes so they wouldn’t fall of their shoulders as the they danced, and taking pictures (always).  Gibi arrived in time to cue them from the sidelines. 

They danced just fine.  Always looking to be sure we were watching, they concentrated on holding their fingers in the right positions, tapping their feet at the right time, turning right, or left or kneeling when they should.   They danced with gusto and with pride; they felt glorious.

To celebrate Independence Day means to understand you are part of a country with a history, with a pride, with songs and stories, and great leaders whose names you hear over and over.  Our girls came to us with only vague concepts of India.  None of them could identify India on a map, or understand that Bangladesh and Pakistan were countries that bordered India.  Now they know our home address, the city, the state, the country.  India on the map has a unique shape with special meaning to them now. Time, Place, and Person, the three major criteria of awareness in the mental status examination.  Today our girls know about calendars and about countries, cities, communities.  But "person" or "who I am" remains elusive. 

Remember, they are orphans, so their pasts have to be reconstructed with bits of information, bits of memory.  Some came without names or ages, so before they began school we practiced names and ages, and how to respond when other children, or teachers, asked about their families.   

Part of the community, and outsider too — this is the duality of their lives, now and probably throughout their lives.  They are insiders until certain questions come up, and then they are outsiders.  To the extent that we, the founders, can be part of the community, their acceptance increases.  But always there is a point of separation, the moment they are asked,

What is your mother’s name?

What is your father’s name?

Do you have any sisters or brothers?

Where are you from?

Our girls have no birth certificates.  They cannot prove who they are, or even that they are citizens of the country whose independence they celebrate.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Pratik
    Jan 08, 2008 @ 11:21:22

    Hi Michelle,
    If we cannot prove that the girls are a citizen of the country, will that pose a challenge for them getting a passport and may be getting jobs later? I think a birth certificate is a very imp document. Is there no way the girls can get one?


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August 2007
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