Ganga Wants to Dance

Ganga wants to dance.  Writing about Ganga is a strange experience because she cannot speak, and yet she seems to tell us so much.  As I've written before, when she came to us in February 2007 she could not lift her head or move her arms.  She did not make any sounds except crying.  Her only form of communication, other than crying, was pointing with her eyes, and her very expressive face.  She had less body tone than a newborn.  I've blogged about her befor, when she learned to use her hands to turn a page, when she and the others started school.

Ganga sits in on the dance classes.  She insists, arches her back and screams if the girls try to go upstairs without her.  She watches intently.  She watches the teacher intently.  She adores him and talks to him as he works.  He adores her.



Ganga almost always wakes with a smile on her face.  But one morning a couple of weeks ago, the morning after dance class, she slept later than usual, and when she woke she stared at me, looked around, and then her face got sadder and sadder, and she began to cry.  I asked her if she had been dreaming of dancing and she kicked her legs and waved her arms (affimative) and I talked to her about dancing in the sky, and flying, and everyone looking at her dancing…. and then it was a dream, and here she was.  She listened… rapt… and I told her she would dance one day, that we would find a way for her to dance.  She glowed, and then her eyes pointed to my cup of coffee and we had our morning coffee together before going off to school.

I sent a note to school that Ganga wants to dance, but they didn't respond.  They never do — an ongoing battle I have with them.  My children can't tell me what they do in school.  I want to know.  I want some hint, some words we can use later in the day to create some continuity.  But at home, everyone was/is aware of how Ganga feels about dance and our teacher.  If she gets sleepy in class here the teacher tells her the dance teacher is coming and she wakes up immediately (I hate when they do this.)  Ganga now watches music and dance DVDs and VCDs the way she used to watch Damu and Charlie Chaplin.

Ganga tends to be physically lazy.  But now I've told her she has to work hard to get her arms working and she has made real advances in the last several weeks. 

Our dance teacher dreams of her dancing.   I actually dreamed one night she was dancing with him.  He was able to hold her up in the air and spin her because her body was limp.  She spun so fast she became almost invisible, like when a fan or airplane propellar spins and then slowed down and she could be seen again spinning….  Then in the dream the teacher told me she was very good.  In the morning I told her I'd dreamed she could dance.

On a practical level I'm thinking about a light weight "standing box" on swivels, open on the sides so her sari will be seen, but holding her up so she only has to use her arms and head, and eyes, and incredible smile.  I imagine the girls using her in the dance by moving the frame.  We will start with Ganga, for this is her passion, but these days we have all four watching, and will find ways for them to dance too.

Ganga's force of will helped get them all to school.  That force of will may have them all dancing. 

Rani, Bornali, and Sonali

Bornali and Ganga are like a pair… both with CP, competitive with each other, one outgoing, the other shy.  Bornali is the better student.  She is obedient, learns her lessons, quietly, and watches everything going on.  Today I showed the staff how she differentiates red and blue, can choose shoe or pen… many objects.  I have the massis doing more play with the childen and they love it — kids and staff.  Bornali loves to follow Ganga, be where she is, do what she does.  She is much more physically able than Ganga and may eventually walk.  We are working at socializing her more.  We actually try to get her to watch TV.

Rani is also communicating more.  At school she is well behaved, unless she is in a bad mood, but then she just is quiet and moody.  Her behavior is good, which is amazing because for a long time she was our most difficult.  She has severe encephalopathy, but sometimes she seems so present, not just to me — to all of us.  She and I communicate by "vocalizing" and tapping our hands over our mouths.. kids' play.  We sing to each other.  It feels so good when we connect.  She is intriguing.

Sonali, with her minimal sight (light and large images only) is our youngest, and most playful.  She is so determined, climbs on everything she cqn, is now able to sit on her own and pull heself up.  The teaches at school adore her. The afternoon I met her first, and had to decide (when i ended up saying i'll take any child you give me), I held her with her head just under my chin, wondering if she was conscious, if she even knew she was being held, and she squirmed a bit — seemed to know she was being held — and that's when I thought to myself, "Four sleepy babies, how much work can that be?"

We brought seven girls home that evening, including the four handicapped girls.  We were totally unprepared!  We had no diapers!  We had nothing!  Those were wild days, but it was wonderful to have them all — still wonderful, for all of us.  As I told the big girls recently, "They are just like us, but they can't tell us what they think or want."  The big girls love having the little ones in their dance and song classes.  They want them to dance, they want to dance with them.  Everyone wants to dance, together.  This is our home; this is Shishur Sevay; this is our family — of course, with their Didis and Dada in America.



Independence Day: An Orphan as Mother India

This was so exciting!!! One of our girls was chosen to be "Mother India" for her school's Independence Day function.  She earned the honor with her work, academically and socially.  She is our oldest, and I sometimes refer to her as the President of the girls.  She is their "Didi" in all ways.  When she and the others came to Shishur Sevay, they did not recognize a map of India.  Motherindia_1378w 



Those are our other girls dancing in front of Mother India, paying tribute to her.  We started costume preparations the day before, and I had much help early in the morning so we could leave before 7 am.  We brought Ganga along since she comes with them to school every morning, riding on my back. 


I tried to get a good group picture, which I guess I did.  But I was looking for a cute, everyone looks happy and easy picture.  When I look at the picture though, I see their toughness, their moods, the challenges in raising them.  Motherindia_1460w  

I tried again when we got home, but the picture wasn't much different.  We finished the program at their school just in time to pick up our handicapped children to take them to their school function.  By the time we got home it had been a long morning.


I see the full range of happy, sad, angry, defiant expressions, what they live with in themselves, what we manage in raising them and helping them to focus, learn, and grow.

I am so happy they have a country now, a country they know, one they sing songs about, a flag they draw over and over again in their notepads.  Today they went to SeemaDi's House to watch some of the Olympics.  They recognized the flag of India; they cheered for the boxer who represented India.

In the last year we were able to get them birth certificates, so they are credentialed citizens.  They are also forming their own sense of history and politics.  Today we were drawing, and talking.  They asked about the English… as they had seen a play of Indian soldiers shooting the English.  This was "loaded" as I count as "English" with my white skin and English language.  So I told them Independence was wonderful for India, and that the English had tried to boss everything, with emphasis on "everything."  I said I was very happy that India was an independent country now.  They were happy.  I'm glad they could ask.  I'm glad they are thinking about these things.


But that's who we are now, me and my twelve Indian girls, recognizing the vast cultural differences while sewing the bonds of love and trust stronger and stronger.



My Children Were Here

My children came to visit, my two daughters and my son-in-law. For my younger daughter this was her first time here since the children came, in fact her first time here in several years.  Since I’m still re-living the visit, day by day, photo by photo, it’s hard to simply describe.  Some of it was hard, very hard, but our basic family bonds stayed intact — stretched at times, challenged by this major change in my life, challenged by sharing me with 12 other children, and a life that consumes me at times, in spite of my attempts to have Shishur Sevay function without me.  Some systems worked.  But by the end of the visit we were on familiar and comfortable emotional territory with each other, and all looking forward to the next visit.  And by the end, there was a level of comfort among ALL my children….  My girls at Shishur Sevay had worried that I’d abandon them.   I think my adult children at times have felt abandoned.   As a mother, I’m a mixed bag of good and bad — just how it is.


I feel more settled here now.  I realize I used to worry a lot about my kids back in the US, and seeing them left me more relaxed.  I feel freed by them, like permission to openly love and mother these children.  I also realized this is home.  Some part of me that I kept “on reserve” is now present.  I’m creating more systems for things I thought would just work themselves out.  I bought a lock box and I have each girl’s school badge and ID card and hair things separated.  In the morning I give them out…  It’s about intimacy — about pinning belts, being more present, and recognizing what mothers learn, namely that no one else will ever care as much about how your kids look, whether their hair is combed, whether they eat their spinach.  It comes with the territory.


As for the administrative duties, the audit is completed.  We held the Annual General Meeting.  We are on good terms with the government.


And my room is once again a mess.



August 2008
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