A Good Day

When my younger daughter was little she used to assess me as to whether I had been a good mother or not for that day.  The assessment tended to be weighted towards the end of the day, so if I finished off well, I'd get a good mark for the day.  She would tell me, "You were a good mom today." 

So far today has been a good day.  I brought myself around to thinking of the move as yet another adventure.  "I wonder where we will end up?"  I also repeated my silly little ditty to myself several times…

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe,

She had so many children she didn't know what to do,

But when they had to move out of the shoe,

They went to the seaside to have a good view.

It's silly, fun to think about, not worthy of high marks, but definitely a smile maker for me.  I wish there were a seaside nearby.

The girls who started their new school two weeks ago learned at dismissal time yesterday that school would be closed for two weeks.  They are on holiday.  The school had to know in advance as it is closing for a yearly ritual of holding Board exams, but parents didn't know and there was a lot of yelling on the part of parents when they found out.  For us, it meant a revamping of our teaching schedule.  But since we have two girls studying at home anyway, we were able to set up a good schedule of classes for the day.  For most of the day we had two to three teachers here, including the learning disabilities specialist who works with one of the girls.

One girl is on time out for bad behavior — very rude and nasty behavior to teachers when she was told which work she had to do.  This is a chronic problem, made worse right now because we had contact with her family.  It did not go well, and the fantasies she held for five years were crushed, and she was left with her chronic bad behavior, without the excuse/explanation she has used in the past.  I'm counselling her, and giving her the time out… because in truth, at a certain point she has to make decisions about her behavior.  She has never accepted a bottom line of having to do what she is told.  I'm not sure she ever will, but I will stay engaged in that battle with her.  We all have to do things we don't want to, study when we don't want to, go to sleep when we don't want to, turn off tv when we don't want to.  It's the human condition, or rather the condition of the socialized person.

I'm encouraged about selling the house.  I've probably under-priced it as I have people saying they have buyers who will take it in a day.  We went to look at another house nearby but it was not good.  It was in a mosquito infested area, next to a dump, off the road, and next to a rickshaw stand, where we would have to pass, and be commented upon (or rather the girls would be).  But, we are looking.

We also had a visit from the CID (no, I don't remember what those letters stand for — but these are high level police).  We were expecting them as they had called the day before.  This is part of an ongoing attempt by yet another family of one of our girls to seize her in order to make a lot of money.  We have been in and out of court.  I visited the Commission on Women, where the family had also lodged a complaint that we were holding her illegally.  At first I had that momentary worry about "police coming" but then I turned it into thinking, "Wow, today we get to show them the best orphanage in Kolkata."  That's really how it turned out.  I had all the necessary papers to show them, and to give them.  I have a lawyer's mind for these things.  One man and one woman officer came and they also talked with our girl.  Then they toured, shook hands with our little ones with disabilities, and saw the big girls studying in the classroom.  I was so tempted to tell them about our trouble in the neighborhood, but I held back.  Calling on the wrong people can make things worse.

As I write I remember things I didn't do today that I was supposed to do.  The morning started with a roar and I'm just catching up now.  The new accountant came and I asked him to prepare a statement to go to one of our donors as I planned to send out the report today.  But while we were out looking at a house he left and did not do the report I needed.  We called him.  He said he hadn't understood what I wanted.  I had asked for a chart showing total budget for first three quarters and how much was spent for teachers…. but what I got was a written note with how much we had spent for teachers… This is a man with 30+ years of experience.  I really believe that first of all standards are low, but second, I'm a woman.  I don't get no respect!  I also don't get no work for my money!

I was just on the phone with some friends from the UK.  They come yearly to visit family.  We talk about how Kolkata seems worse each year.  They asked where I will move, and I said I'd try to stay where I have a network of back up.  We agreed that there is no place really safe here, that it is all relative.  The political instability right now leaves too many vacuums, too many people who "maybe" have power but may not have it tomorrow, or other people who have no power today but will tomorrow — all in a context where power is expressed by violence.  No one is in charge.  Women and girls become more vulnerable.

Walking today, to look at another house, one of the local leaders talked with us.  He expressed his displeasure with what had happened to us, but he said without being called, he could not interfere.  This is nonsense.  I have heard this before.  It's what all those men on the road told themselves — we can't do anything unless she calls us for help.  All they had to do as a group is just walk back to where we were, walk the lane, and quiet it all down.  But they must have been getting some vicarious pleasure from hearing the reports of how the drunken goondas were terrorizing the foreign lady and the orphan girls.  Why else would they not help?  So it was one of those men today who also said he could do nothing because I didn't ask for help that night.  I was polite and friendly, and thanked him for his support.  Why not?

The day is ending on a good note for the big girls.  Supper is always chapatti and left over lunch vegetables and whatever else we have had, plus dal.  At night the girls fix their own mixtures, adding chilis, onions, oil, lemon… all sorts of mixtures.  They take possession of the kitchen, and clean up after themselves.  One team cleans the kitchen fully, while another team cleans the classroom.  The third team takes care of lunch clean up.  The rabbit cage is cleaned every morning.  The girls have a rotation system, a week at a time.  They don't need reminding.  It's nice.

Nine pm and the  music is blaring outside.  It will be turned down at ten, hopefully.  It's a constant reminder of our need to move, an antidote to the moments I dont' really want to move.  Gotta do what we gotta do… like it or not.  I wish my little fighting child could get that… we don't always get what we want….

Raising twelve is tough, but when my little trouble maker was gone, raising eleven was even harder. 

The seaside calls to me, to us… but is it safe?  Our picnic place in August wasn't safe.  Our community is not safe.  Oops, I'd better think positive or this will feel like a bad marks day.


I slept well, so I guess yesterday was a good day.  I was a good mom yesterday.


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February 2011
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