Oases and Mirages

Another haiku:

The beaten believe

Oases are mirages.

They build their cocoons.

I gave this one to the English/Bengali teacher this morning.  She talked about it with the children, explained the words — an exercise of many meanings…

I look for ways to tell the girls I understand them, difficult at times without a shared language.  I also look for ways for the teachers to understand their behaviors, their mistrust, their defiance at times.  And I look for answers as to why we do not beat them, when it seems to some that a good beating would change behavior.  The haiku, the use of literature is also an exercise in shifting from the concrete to the abstract, from the literal cocoon, to ways they protect themselves.

Cocoons are easy for them to understand as we visited Science City last week and saw a house full of cocoons.  Oases are easy for them to understand as we have been watching Ten Commandments, and they saw the oasis in the desert.   Mirages — there is actually a Bengali word which I’ve forgotten, but it was described to me as when you think you see the sea before you and you run towards it, and it isn ‘t there. 

I’m told the girls really enjoyed trying to understand the haiku.  Two of the girls who often are in trouble took note, and did not try to doze through the class, as they sometimes do.  We try and try, and give them time, time in a place where they are not beaten, literally or figuratively.  We all work very hard psychologically.  They are at work constantly trying to find "evidence" that we will betray them; they challenge us to beat them; they relax, have fun, go on guard again.   — For our part, we work hard too, because to be honest, our agenda is to change them — to change the direction in which their lives were going.  And we want them to want to change!  We want bad language to stop, fighting to stop, moodiness to stop — harps and bulldozers, Heaven and Earth.  It is our dance, and we hope that love will help, ours and theirs.

Move Heaven and Earth

I really wish I could blog more, mostly because I think about what I want to write, and then the time disappears.  I feel like I’m living in the midst of a miracle.  I look at the house full of children, and think about the empty broken down place we bought almost two years ago.  I look at the kids, and think about what their lives were like before they came to us.  I look at all the people here, teaching, taking care of kids, cooking, cleaning — all this life and energy that didn’t exist here before.  And I look at my life now, so full — my life that seemed so empty just a few years ago.

It is not a sacrifice for me to be here.  I have created what I needed too.  This is my home now, filled with all these children, and all this life.  Just a few years ago I had a beautiful house in New Jersey, but it was empty.  My kids were out of the nest.  We talked on the phone; they came to stay sometimes, but their lives were elsewhere.  And, my husband had left me for another woman’s nest.  I kept looking at the New Jersey house, wanting it filled with children I was already sponsoring in schools in Kolkata.  I had to face that they were not coming to New Jersey, so it was pointless to hold onto the house.  And they were not orphans.  They had families, ones I was helping also, but no one was coming to fill my house. 

I sold the house and moved to a rented apartment… a first downsizing — thinking I would be back and forth.  But in that next year, I spent more time in India than in New York.  And when I was in New York, I led a fairly solitary life.  I walked my dog (whom I truly loved, and still love) in Central Park; I saw my kids when they were free; I walked along Broadway noticing babies and old people — the baby nannies, and the old people nannies, strangers called in to take old ladies and old men for walks, help them buy groceries, be their companions.  The babies and old people were white; the nannies were brown, off-white, Hispanic, Asian – paid companions, caretakers, pretending this wasn’t "just a job."    In India I felt relevant, needed, contemporary.  In the US I felt more related to who I was in the past, but not in the present.  My life lacked the kind of meaning that had always sustained me.   At seventeen I’d written a school essay about being touched by the plight of Korean orphans.. work undone on my to do list.

I’ve written here before about hearing the voices of the girls calling to me from a dumpster, calling for me to free them.  I think now that was also a call, a voice, to free myself.

I did a lot of writing in that time, the poetry and haiku that continue to define my life, here too.

One haiku..

The invitation

Offered a new assignment,

Move Heaven and Earth.

That sounds a bit like opening an orphanage in Kolkata, moving Heaven and Earth. 


RSVP:  Accepted

February 2008
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