I Want An Airplane

In the beginning is the vision, and then the drawing, carvings,  and then the words.  I want an airplane.  There!  I’ve said it.  Maybe one day it will happen, but first I had to say it.

I want an airplane so we can all get on the plane and visit the people we know and miss in other parts of the world.  This morning we were sitting and talking about Maggie’s leaving for the US.  One of the big girls wants to go to the US.  She whispered to Ganga, “Tell Mummy we want to go to the US.”  Ganga who cannot speak has become their messenger.

Sunday morning, Mummy and the kids

So I told the girls I want an airplane. One of the girls said she was afraid of airplanes and I told her about the “happy pills” I gave to Cici when she was afraid.  Actually I think about airplanes a lot.  I want to visit the US and stay at Heather and Andrei’s new vacation house in the Poconos.  It’s big enough for all of us.  Remember we live in 1200 sq. ft. here.

My daughter’s house in the Poconos. I know we could all fit.

I want to take the girls to New York, to hear Cici’s band play.  I want them to run in the grass of Central Park, and visit the petting zoo of Prospect Park with Victoria.  I want to take them to the beach.  I want to visit all the people who visited us here.  We think about them, talk about them, miss them.  Maggie we want to see you.

I want to take the girls to Perth Australia to visit our new friends there from Curtin University.  We just had an amazing visit with them, and the work they started energized us more.  And I want to fly from Perth to the East of Australia across the most beautiful land and color formations I’ve ever seen.  I’ve not seen much of India either.  Neither have my kids, any of them.

Whenever I see someplace beautiful or interesting, I want the people close to me to share it.  I miss them more and just want to get home.  I always want to get home.   Many many years ago an astrologer friend said to me, “People don’t understand.  Your moon is in Saturn.  You want to be home.”  Cici, my younger daughter loves to tease me about being an “over-attached” mother.   There is some kind of irony in my now having children I love on both sides of the world.

Well, I’m a dreamer.  I have visions; I have wishes.  Some come true and some not.  I”m really fine if I can’t have an airplane.  I could settle for a flying carpet, big of course.

In Search of Security-UPDATE 19 November 2012

UPDATE:  Sometimes things DO work out.  The man did not want to lose our business.  In fact he seems to really want to protect us.  So, he is doing the night duty himself until he can find someone reliable.  This is a huge relief as he stays awake, walks around, and keeps an eye on what is going on.  Has he dozed off sitting in the chair?  Of course.  It’s really normal.  I don’t get upset about that.  This morning he brought in a new day guard to meet me.  The boss will continue at night for now.  He asked if we can start over.  New day begins. 

 

All security agencies provide deteriorating service over time.  It’s one of my “Harrison’s Rules of Life.”  It can take a year, or two weeks, which seems to be the latest case.  Each starts the same, whether they came recommended by someone, or from the internet…. They “LOVE’ this home and the work I am doing.  Usually they call me “Ma” but this one refers to me as Didi.  The line goes something like, “You are my Ma/Didi and I will take care of you.”  I think they learn this from watching satire.

I get scared when I realize our security is falling apart, as it is now.  We are alone here, women and children.  We are surrounded by criminals who would love to have access.  I just called the boss, the new boss, and he was “shocked” that the night guard didn’t show up, said the day guard would stay on.  I said I don’t do 24 hour shifts because they can’t stay awake!  Two nights ago at 2 am when I was up with a crying child, I saw that the guard had shut himself away and was fast asleep.  I called the boss in the morning but his phone was “lost” and the second number didn’t answer and he had already asked for “one more chance.”

Old stories for context…

First ever security agency was fake.  One of my board members, actually our Treasurer, arranged the service.  Then the local goondas discovered he was fake, fake company…..

Then there were the ones who were getting drunk from alcohol from the goondas next door.

Then there was the one I found, around 3 am, lying in our entrance way playing with myself.  It was really hard to make the phone calls to tell the company what the problem was.

Along the way I hired G4S.  They are the same company that didn’t do so well for the Olympics in London.  They are the best known, and guard the consulates here in Kolkata.  It was nice to have them because they responded to the complaints, so it was a feel good, but the guards slept and drank.

Early on the local goondas decided my guards were entitled to sleep.  These were 12 hour shifts.  The goondas demanded I provide blankets and pillows.  I refused, said I’d rather save the money and guard by myself (behind the locked grille).  When I finally demanded this guard be transferred he turned to the community and that was the cause of the first of our riots.  By riots I mean about 30 drunken men, and the women neighbors too screaming at me to leave, telling the girls they will kill me, and telling me not to call the police because they owned the police.  When I called the local political leader he said, “They don’t want to hurt you.  They just want your money.”  That was so reassuring.

One time when I got rid of a company, we cleaned out the locker and found a bag of condoms and empty alcohol bottles.

The cost has ranged from about Rs. 16,000 to Rs. 26,000 a month.  That’s a huge part of our budget.

This is really sickening, isn’t it!

We had a guard about a year ago we really liked.  All of us liked him.  Then we found out he was giving his mobile phone to the girls and trying to set them up with local boys.

Oh yes, and then there was the massi who was stealing money from me and passing it through the window to the guard…. and riding home with him on his bicycle.

Remember, these are only the stories I know……

Where do I go from here?  I guess I go the same place, the same route, because it is the only one here….  This is Kolkata.  Nothing works.  It’s not intended to work.  I’m angry.  I’m angry enough to tell him just to leave, to fire them now, to just live without a guard.  We would be safe for the night, but the criminals would come over the fence and steal everything that was not chained down.

Another guard story.  Saraswati Puja is celebrated in late Jan or early February.  Two years ago we bought a woven cane pandal to put up, and to decorate.  The statue of Saraswati was inside. (No, that wasn’t stolen.)   After the holiday I wanted to put it in the garden as a play house for as long as it survived the weather.  It was about 6’x6’x6′, perfect for the kids.  A couple of days after the Puja, I suddenly noticed it wasn’t there, in the front and it wasn’t in the garden.  It was GONE.  What is amazing is that neither of our guards had any idea where it had gone! Six by six by six had just absconded.  The next day I heard from someone, I can’t remember who, that a neighbor had it.  So I went to the neighbor with one of our teachers to translate.  We were a funny sight.  Only the woman was home in their tiny rented quarters.  “Yes, my husband brought it here.”  I didn’t see it though and she pointed to the ceiling as the panels had been taken apart and put up for insulation.  I smiled and thanked her and said no, there was no problem.  I just didn’t know where it was.  So then the guards who had no idea where it had gone said they thought I was throwing it out so they gave it away, and so on.

This is boring, to write, and to read, but it’s the stuff of what drains my time and my energy.   I feel incredibly alone with this.

The Pandal That Absconded 2011

She Wasn’t an Orphan

I faced a hard decision.  The child we brought home from CWC on 24 September is not an orphan.  She has a mother, sisters, aunts, uncles,  and cousins.  As I had guessed, she was part of a community of beggars, thieves, and goondas.  The woman who brought her in was some sort of boss.  All of this has unfolded over the last several weeks.  The woman who had brought her to CWC called us almost daily, showed up unannounced, and the child mostly did not want to see her.  Over the next few weeks we learned that the child’s mother lived right next door to that woman, with her younger sister, and that “L”, our girl would take care of her mother in the day (maybe).  The mother was said to be mad, but L told us this was just so people would give her money.  L missed all of them, and missed the freedom of her life.  At the same time she also loved being here, enjoyed the other girls, and started to learn the alphabet.

So, what’s the problem?  First of all, I’ve been at this work for 12 years and I have a good idea of who I can help and who I cannot help.  I cannot help this child.   I can feed her, but I cannot change the direction of her life.  Ultimately she would not stay and ultimately the family/community would not leave her here.  As long as she wants to go home, she will not tolerate any of the discipline, self discipline, and work of being part of our life, family, home.  She will always be different.  I’ve seen it too often.  She has a place to go, not a great place, but she has family, people of her life, who she wants to be with.  She will never feel, “Amar barrie Shishur Sevay.” or “My home is Shishur Sevay.”

Second, I left the US, sold my home and took my savings to come here and do this work.  I want to care for orphans, the one’s who do not have what this child has.  The girls at Shishur Sevay are without choice.  The one girl who has a family still wants to join them.  She probably will when she is 18 in seven months.  India has a horrible problem of beggar children.  There even are laws against it, but they are ignored.  It’s a problem I cannot begin to address because it’s fueled by organized crime, police, politicians, the people who get paid off to do nothing.  It’s simply not what I sold my house for.

Third, my commitment to the girls here is really lifetime.  That’s what my money is for.  I stay here, miss my family in the US, including my grandchild, because I care for children who would not be OK without me.   I’m not willing to make that sacrifice for a child with alternatives.   My daughter and son-in-law in the US feel a commitment to our girls, but this one is not an orphan and does not belong here.

Fourth, it is not OK to have a home of orphans, children who unfortunately carry the “shame” of  that label, to have a child who is automatically “above” that label.  Whatever WE may think of L’s community, she is accepted there.  Our Shishur Sevay girls have NO PLACE they are accepted.  Our girl who will return to her family when she is 18 wants to be where she IS ACCEPTED.    Before taking L back, the girls and I talked, because for them also it was hard to have her leave.  But our girl who is almost 18 was clearest, ‘Mummy, she will be like me.  She will want to stay with her family.”

So we went, Gibi, Purba, Maggie, “L”, and me.  I had prepared a letter for CWC stating much of what I’ve written above.  I also had the original CWC Order giving her to us, which described her as an orphan.   I brought the government form for signing a child out of care.  We arrived to be met by an angry group of her relatives, fighting with each other and accusing us of keeping her in a bad place.  Gibi threatened to call the police for fraud.  I missed a lot of it as I took the child inside and Purba made sure we got ourselves on the appointment list.  Among the group were the woman who signed her in, the woman who said she was the child’s mother, the younger sister, a woman who said she was the community representative of some sort, and a couple of others.  They were there to reclaim their child.  They were angry with the woman who had “relinquished” her, and now said she was actually the grandmother and the woman said to be mad was her daughter.

I had prepared myself for this CWC meeting differently.  Bringing this child back was difficult.  I had to do this for the security of Shishur Sevay, and the protection of the other girls.  I took out my business card, kept it in front of me as a reminder, and tried to stay in the mode of being the lawyer for Shishur Sevay.  Shishur Sevay became my client.   The CWC woman whom I’ve known now for years, was very astute with these people and ended up saying she had no idea who was telling the truth, but since no one could prove they were even a relative, she couldn’t return the child to them.  She turned to me and said I’d have to keep her for now.  I said very calmly, “No, I don’t have to keep her.  This “Order” you wrote says she is an orphan and she is not.  This is your failure to find out.”  She agreed I was right.  Sitting at the long table was also someone from  CINI (Children In Need Institute), which is the largest organization working with these children.  The official said that CINI would take her.  This is actually very good because they will investigate and they will keep her in a shelter if they decide not to return her to those people.  They have staff, social workers, project and program directors, informants, investigators, and connections to high places.   A social worker came into the CWC meeting room and took “L”  back to the waiting area where she joined about 20 other children sitting on mats, also waiting to go to CINI.  “L” was tearful and another girl moved closer to comfort her.

Hundreds, thousands of children pass through this way.   That’s really where the label “SHAME” belongs.

Today I did what I had to for, Shishur Sevay.

November 2012
S M T W T F S
« Oct   Feb »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  
%d bloggers like this: