Follow-up on Abuse Post

I was up and dressed early this morning.  It’s not good to deal with such issues before showering and putting on a sari.  I decided first that I had to get more information;  I had to make a decision based on the events, not on how much I needed or didn’t need someone here.  House supervisor did not know what the problem had been, and being in the midst of another crisis, said, “I’m tied up, go directly to Mummy (that’s me) and tell her.”   She said she had no idea it involved the feeding.    Am I certain, of course not, but things she said made sense.  The teacher denied having told the girl to keep Sonali’s mouth open, and denied force feeding her.  Do I believe her, not sure.  The teacher, the older girl, my assistant and I met together.  The older girl changed her story twice.  She is totally unreliable and has vehemently denied things I’ve actually seen her do.   I honestly don’t know what is the truth.  As for my assistant, she didn’t know what she had done since (eventually) she told me.  When the teacher explained something, she said she didn’t know that….  She was vague in parts, and absolute in others.  But it still didn’t register that she should have told me immediately, and all this would have been resolved right then.  She kept insisting she had told me, as if it didn’t matter what day she told me, and I think for her that is true.  I cannot trust her.   We don’t live by the same set of rules.  Painfully for her and for me, I said that trust had been broken, and that she couldn’t stay.  

There have already been negative repercussions of her firing.  I live in a culture where immediacy is not understood, and often truth is irrelevant.  I am so aware of being a white woman writing about Indian culture, aware of how I am sometimes heard.  But my focus is on the children, running an orphanage, so I’m going to talk about what I deal with in this realm.  I am also a boss, and a woman boss.  The more I learn about the “combined family” which has been romanticized in the West, the more I think I’m seen as the Mother-in-Law of a combined family with all the subterfuge, alliances, secrecy, jealousies… the ultimate power who everyone wants to please and to control.

I am only referring to the staff and other people around me, not the girls.  To the girls I am mother, even when they defiantly say, “You aren’t our real mother!!!”  It’s so “on cue” developmentally.  I tell them of course I’m not their real mothers, but I’m mother to them now.  Sometimes the girls and I are fine and sometimes we are not.  But it all feels normal, and I’m experienced as a mother.  I’m not experienced as mother-in-law of an Indian combined family!

My singular mission, is the safety and well-being of the children.  I won’t let myself lose sight of that, not for a moment.  It’s hard.  Of course I’d love to bend to accommodate needs of others, but that would take me off mission.  It’s ten-o’clock and I DO know where my kids are.

I am so appreciative of the support I received from readers.   I am trying to bring in people from other places.  Part of the problem though is that not many people speak Bengali outside West Bengal and Bangladesh.  I have two people coming from abroad.  And I’d love to have more.  I’d love to have interns.  It’s just that each of these things requires me to get involved in some way, and that takes me away from the kids.  So, I’m trying but I’m just not there yet.

Well, enough of that.  I’ll blog soon about my start of a new math program.  I’m the new math teacher and this evening we had a really great class.  I’m so excited about this.  Next post.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Paddy
    Nov 13, 2011 @ 12:40:15

    Hi Michelle
    I have been following your story with a great deal of interest. Let me first assure you that you are handling the problem perfectly. You are absolutely right about the potential damages and even risks from the cultural angle. But you are a brave lady; you can handle it. Just don’t let anyone manipulate you. I shall continue to check your blogs for further news. All the best,


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November 2011
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