I’m White

Child Labor Law Violation 1

Child Labor Law Violation

I had a bad time at CWC today.  I didn’t go alone, but it didn’t matter.  No one was listening to anything I said, and they were rude and angry if I did try to defend myself.   One of the consequences of my tough decisions in the last couple of months is that not everyone was happy, of course.  For matters of privacy I will be brief, but will say that adolescents, and I believe particularly adolescent girls can be very destructive, and very charmingly convincing that they have been wronged.  In fact this girl has been so wronged CWC now wants to see if the other girls are likewise being exploited in violation of Child Labor laws.

It sounds silly but I remember as a kid cleaning the house with my mother, playing music, talking…. taking care of our home.  I was told today though that in India this is not done, that girls/women don’t clean their own homes.  But what about my girls?  Should I assume they will all be affluent enough to hire servants to cook and clean?  You think those are the families they will marry into?  I think I somehow really challenged a cultural norm.  I think these people at CWC are enraged that the girls clean.  Maybe it’s my being a white American and some image of my exploiting them?  I tried to tell the CWC that I clean the bathroom, which is true, but they weren’t listening to anything I had to say.  I clean the bathroom for several reasons.  First, no one else wants to do it.  Second, in my mind, cleaning is honorable work.  Third, the girls have come to really appreciate a clean bathroom.  They take care of the other bathrooms. That’s not a bad thing.  And of course the hippocracy of all this is that in India it’s the middle class who most uses child servants in their homes.

They seemed enraged that a girl was expected to change the diaper of a child with disabilities.  I’m thinking this is all an April Fools joke and they are dead serious.  So the issue of diapers let to a sudden reaction that I had “normal and handicapped” in the same home and that had to end!  I said that CWC had given me these girls, but that wasn’t relevant either.  It was really ugly, and I expressed my feelings about it, which is to say I was not submissive.  I finally got one person who was lecturing me that this was a court, to understand this court had jurisdiction over the child but not over me.  They simply do not have the authority to force me to take a violent girl back into the home, however much she sheds tears.  Their plan was for me to take her back but not give her work to do.  Yeah, right!

I am not dealing with a rational system here.  I heard it described as judicial anarchy, and I think this is true.  There are no real rules.   Our home has been inspected seven times, with the same kids, same mix of “normals and handicapped” as they continued to describe them.  There has never been a problem.

Would this all be playing out differently if I were Indian?  I’m thinking yes.    It’s been the divide until recently even within the home.     Are they seeing me as the White lady using Indian girls to clean her house?    If this is the stereotype can they  even see beyond who I represent?  This is personal.  I have visited NGO’s where they show off the weaving being done by five year olds (vocational training), and no one says anything.  I reported a home almost ten years ago where girls were being used as servants instead of being sent to school.  I had proof, documents, school records, attendance records, but I could not get anything changed.

This is the CWC where I brought the eight starving children from Aunty’s, where three children there have died since then, but no one will do anything.  The last time I was there, I was standing outside and Aunty told me to move because the feces was coming down over the balcony and she didn’t want me to get dirty.  Government inspectors came but they ignored everything.  I was there.  They ignored me.

Now it’s 2:30 am and I can’t sleep.  I tried.  I’m also in the middle of major dental work, as things seemed a bit quiet and I took the time.  Well, I guess from the tension this evening, the temporary bridges and crowns cracked and my mouth hurts.  I’m afraid to leave Shishur Sevay until this “surprise” CWC inspection happens this week so I’m not sure what to do, except drink a lot of liquids only, and keep my mouth closed… not so easy…

We told the girls what was going on because they will be interviewed, and because we will be sprucing up our paperwork, which needed doing anyway.  So a friend told me to have them prepped and all I could think of were the custody cases in the US where the first question is always, “Did your mother/father tell you to say this?”  Nope, they will say what they want and I will deal with it, whatever it is.

I know we will survive this — but I’m scared.  I’m also pissed.  I’m a seventy year old doctor, psychiatrist, and obstetrician and gynecologist.  I have 45 years of clinical experience working with woman and children.  Actually I wrote that in my report today but they ignored it.  Even when Seema Gupta translated it into Bengali they ignored it.  They are out for blood, my blood, this White woman’s blood.

The Seventy Year Old Doctor

The Seventy Year Old Doctor

Here is my testimony:

Dance and Movement, Inclusive as it should be

Dance and Movement, Inclusive as it should be

This is a picture from our new Dance and Movement classes three times a week.  On the days between classes the girls like to put on the music and practice.  Six years ago I promised Ganga she would dance one day, and now she does.

We live as a family.  We eat together, sleep together, watch tv together, pray together.  We don’t separate by abilities because we all have so much to give each other.

OOPS!  Another picture of all of us together.  no separate  beaches.

OOPS! Another picture of all of us together. no separate beaches.

The group who came with me today was

1.Seema Gupta, Board Member, Joint Secretary, and Deputy Registrar of Calcutta High Court.

2. Purba Rudra, Ph.D, our Academic Director

3. Sudipendu Dutta, my secretary.  (I hired him as assistant, but in India, Secretary is higher, so now he is my Secretary).  Sudip is an incredibly hard worker, sincere, responsible, and cares so much about what we are doing.  He also has Cerebral Palsy and walks with sticks.  He manages.  I kept wondering what it was like for him, listening to all this about not having “handicapped and normals” together.   What did this mean for his life, his family life, his work life…. Was it OK that we were all together or should there be separate accommodations for him?   He is also an activist working with others on creating a residence for people with disabilities…. and has been talking about the success of inclusion, Shishur Sevay as a model of how good it can be.  What was he thinking?  I’ll have to ask him in the morning.

Now it’s 3:30 am and I think I’m ready to post this and try to sleep for a couple of hours.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. joycegodwingrubbs2
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 04:57:38

    I pray that it may be resolved so that you have peace and protection from these ugly people. It is after all, about the children and also yes, about you being white. It is sad to say but like the poor, I believe prejudice will always be with us in many forms and sadly will often damage what is a good and faithful service to the “least of these. I pray that the answers will come soon. I pray that like me, when I dealt with the worst of prejudice accusations, I had a friend who stepped forward for me and because she was African American, she could “vouch and advocate” for me, as I could for her when she was unjustly attacked. I pray you find a strong ally in that culture that can be your “alter-ego” and do battle for you in these things. My prayers and love surround you.


  2. Red Prudhon
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 06:51:25

    Michelle I can’t imagine what you’re dealing with. I am so very proud of you for your courage and dedication to your work with your girls. I know it must seem overwhelming during times like this but don’t let these political antics set you back. Keep fighting for what you believe in and for what you know is right for these young women. You have so much to offer them with your experience and especially with the love and passion that you have for your work. My thoughts and prayers remain with you-keep up the good fight. YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN MANY LIVES!!


  3. Dipak Basu
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 08:52:08

    Michelle, I’m proud of you for not falling apart after this kind of abuse. These government types are worth nothing, and they know it. They are frustrated about someone, especially a foreign ‘woman’, doing something noble and worthwhile, and that shows up their own smallness, worthlessness. Yes, they are clever enough to understand that, and that makes them angry. They are not angry at you, they are angry at themselves and their own systems. So the only way they know how to deal with their frustration is to hit back at you. They know this much: you are not going to give up. You are not going to pack up and leave. So they must keep on taking out their own grudges on you, a visible and conspicuous target. Please keep doing what you know how to do well. Just be firm and cool. And never ever shout back at them in anger, no matter how bad the provocation is. Don’t give them the satisfaction of a small triumph which is all they are asking for. Again, I’m proud of you, dear sister!


  4. Sudipendu Dutta
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 10:45:05

    It’s really hard to hear & digest that there should be separate accommodations for disabled & so called non disabled people. It will make the person with disabilities more lonely… They have all the rights to live in our inclusive society & prove their potentials. Our Shishur Sevay is the perfect MODEL of inclusive accommodation. We should not change our policy at any cost. .


  5. Rai Sanyal
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 00:37:05

    I commend you for your “never give up spirit”.


  6. Sue Gambill-Read
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 06:16:43

    You are all beautiful. White, brown, “normal”, “handicapped”, working, learning, dancing, loving, learning. I hope this dis-ease, with CWC and your mouth both stop interfering with your good work SOON.


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April 2013
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