One down, more to go…

Gibi and I visited a school that takes in street children, teaches them, houses them — a school noted for the quality of its education, and its mixing of paying and non-paying children.  The "but" is that our girl would not be able to visit us, nor us visit her — we would have to cut ties.  The Catholic nun who runs the school could not understand why the mother wouldn’t give up parental rights so she could stay with us.  She also was sure the mother was scamming me, that she wanted something else, like money.  Maybe so, maybe not — she hasn’t asked for money, and if I were her I wouldn’t give up parental rights.  That’s how children end up being adopted out of the country… parents sign them into a school, and poof, they are gone. 

This girl is ours in the sense that we accepted responsibility and she is part of our home, our family, even though she doesn’t quite fit in.  That seems to me all the more reason for her to stay in the lives of our other girls, and for them to stay in hers.  Kids attach, in spite of themselves, and it would not be good for anyone for her to disappear from our lives.

I have a call in to another place, and discovered that one of my teachers here knows the head well, as I do too.  She boasted that he calls her "Auntie" and I said he calls me "Mother." So this week, Mother and Auntie will talk to him about taking our girl.  As of six months ago he wasn’t taking older girls, but apparently that is changing.  And three years ago when he was starting he was also insisting on disconnection with families.  I knew he had started to relax that.  It seems to be the impulse, one I understand well, but it’s not good for the children. 

One of the reasons people do this in taking poor children, or street children, or children of sex workers, is that parents sometimes come back to take children out of the home to put them to work.  Or, they demand money for allowing the children to stay.  I know places that have stopped taking children because of this, that it is too painful to see a child blossom, learn, have a future, and then be pulled out to be a servant, or child bride, or prostitute.  One girl I "sponsored" for several years after I first started educating children here is now working on one of the bridges, lined up with the others…waiting….

Our first summer in India, in 2000, my Calcutta born daughter wrote:

Pulsating pink, luscious lime, tempestuous tangerine

The head-turning spectrum of saris

Mysterious figures

Sitting on the railing like


Endless rivers of raven hair

Flowing in braids.

Radiant red lips and bold black eyeliner

Stunning skin of silky sand, mahogany and sienna

Emphasize the vivid hues of cloth.

Waiting for a customer

To ravage the reddest rose

The thorn pricks the skin

Like the shock of beauty lost.

Waiting for a man who will turn

Fairness into business.

This is the ugliness of these women’s lives.

This is the repulsiveness of reality.


                                     Cici Harrison

I have the poem because it was among the papers I brought here when I came.  The poem was published in her high school literary magazine.  The girl who now waits on that bridge spent a lot of time with us.

Cici jokes that she and I have traded lives.  I live in Kolkata; she in NY.  Two days ago the juxtaposition was so clear.  She phoned me as she was walking home at night from band practice.  She plays drums with two bands now.  She was on the cold streets of NY, rain falling, walking from the subway to her apartment.  I was also walking, but I was carrying a bag of vegetables I’d bought from a cart.  So here I was, walking in the baking sun, along a dusty broken road, saying hello as people looked… nodding… smiling… mother daughter, worlds apart and tied together.  Well, life is strange, for sure.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cici
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 10:01:02

    yeah, worlds apart.
    i’m reading this now – a couple weeks later – and missing you. not wishing i was in india though…


  2. cici
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 10:01:43

    yeah, worlds apart.
    i’m reading this now – a couple weeks later – and missing you. not wishing i was in india though…


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

March 2008
%d bloggers like this: