What do you do if a beautiful beggar child is befriending your daughter?
Every day on the drive home after school we pass a busy intersection near our house. The light is very long and most days we are caught in traffic for a generous five minutes waiting for the light to turn and the cars to inch forward. There are a handful of regular beggars at this lucrative intersection – most of the cars are coming from the embassy district and they are heading out to moneyed neighborhoods. After six months of this routine we recognize the beggars, which is a good thing for them, since it becomes harder to avoid the pleas of someone you have been watching for over half a year.
Maya is a little girl about Lala’s age (10). She is unkept and dirty, but the child has a beaming face and a smile that’s difficult to forget. Lala has been giving her food and water from the car for a while – and now, the exchange flows from Maya to Olivia with quick conversations through the window and yesterday, a red rose.
To know that Lala’s middle name is Rose and to have watched Maya give away the only tangible thing she had – the flowers she sells to support herself, her family, and most likely her handler – left me with much to think about. Where does this relationship go? How do I support Lala’s need to reach out without becoming too involved with this little girl? Should we do more for her? Can we help her in a way that could change the pace and promise of her life?
What Lala sees and how she responds to the world and what I model are all significant episodes in a little life that has yet to be lived. Regardless of whether this relationship goes or grows, Lala has already played a role that will teach her something. I can’t help but want for her the notion that she is not powerless in a world that doesn’t always make sense. Yet at the same time, she needs to accept that there are things we simply cannot change. Can she do that and still see that the weight of the world doesn’t necessarily have to inhibit or paralyze us?
Does this make any sense out there? Sometimes, the private conversations we have with ourselves don’t always translate well.
As for the larger questions here, right now I have no answers. Both Lala and I need to follow our instincts and just see where we land. Today, Lala packed Maya a lunch bag filled with healthy goodies. I’ll keep you posted.
And now a story grossly counter to the one shared above. It’s about the chief minister of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh. The chief minister is the head of the state’s governing coalition (think parliamentary system here) and it’s the most powerful political position within state politics. UP’s chief minister is a woman named Mayawati. She hails from one of the “backward classes” and considers herself the voice of India’s Dalit caste – formerly described as the “untouchables”. Personally, she reminds me of Ursula, the blubbery and wicked octopus in the Disney movie, The Little Mermaid. When we moved to India this summer Mayawati was embroiled in accusations of misusing vast amounts of public money (millions? maybe a billion? more?) to build grand-scale statues of herself in public places across UP. She also builds statues of the founder of her party and of elephants, her party’s symbol. (Political parties and politicians have symbols so illiterate voters can recognize them on ballots.) Also worth mentioning is that the leader of Mayawati’s party is called the “supremo”…. so Mayawati is the supremo of the BSP and the chief minister of UP, which, by the way, has a population of nearly 200 million people.
This week, Mayawati literally looked like an octopus on a stage when she was draped in a super-hero-sized garland of cash at a political rally. Take a look:
Yes, that’s a big necklace of Indian Rupees – worth a speculated 400,000 to 2 million USD. She also has a penchant for lavish public birthday parties with huge cakes. I’ve read that Mayawati has grown very rich since becoming chief minister. I suppose that’s no surprise if you’re shoplifting with eight arms. Meanwhile, residents of UP face high crime rates, poverty, and poor health services… but they get to eat free cake on the supremo’s birthday.
Here’s what we’ve been up to…
Traffic on Delhi’s nicest highway:
I had a Girlfriend visiting from Nairobi…. (sorry Maya – this was the only shot I had of you) and look at her chugging down my whiskey sour! (Thanks to a friend with connections, I even have marachino cherries in those sours…)
Our house dogs, Julie (black) and A Boy Named Penny (white chest):
Born to be couch potatoes: (or bed bugs…)