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Questions With No Set Answers

On Saturday, we had a wonderful time with students- art program, remember? We had sat down two of our kids about a week back to make farewell greetings for the Groton students and the kids had loved painting over their little palms and then printing that on the sheets. So we decided to do the same for the art class on Saturday.It was a lot of fun and the art that came out- in a splash of colours initially and then in the same shade that you get when your reds and whites and blues and yellows and greens mix with the blacks, i.e. BLACK- was incredible!While many of our kids were most reluctant to get paints on their hands and squealed quite a bit, other came running up to ask if they could paint the soles of their feet and imprint that on paper! We are yet to see the results of that one!

So on the way back from Bindal, we are approached by the father of one of our kids. Up until now, we only knew that the family was Nepali, the parents work here as daily-wage labours and have one child- a daughter- who stays back at home while the parents work. Suddenly, on that day, the father comes up and says there is a little problem that he needs help with. We ask him what it is and he says he would like to explain in English. We are a little taken aback but when he actually started talking to us about how he needs work, and he starts talking to us in impeccable English, we stood there with our mouths hanging open, like they show in cartoon movies!

Turns out, while the mother is from Nepal and their daughter too looks distinctly Nepali, the father is a David O’ Brian from Goa whose family is now based in Kolkata. He has been working as a daily-wage labourer at a construction site, as has his wife. The tough work is now taking its toll on the couple and they are looking for a more reasonable job.

I was immediately excited and could literally see the couple living and working on one of the organic farms in the outskirts of Dehradun, with their little daughter attending school. But the bubble burst when the more experienced people began raising questions. Why is the man living there with his family? If he can speak, read and write English that well, why has he not found better work yet? How did he get to this situation? Does he drink?

These are very real issues and when Shaila returned to talk to the man the next day, we learn that he is, indeed an alcoholic and that he can speak and read English but not write it. He said that his family own a house in Kolkata and that he left his family when he was 12 years old, so there is a possibility that he was a run-away child. Also, he has no paperwork, no identification to prove where he is from, or any way of ratifying any information about him.

The man is wonderful but the story that he shared does not really add up and without knowing for sure all details about him and his family, it is not possible for us to recommend him for work anywhere. Even so, we are trying to find out more and work with our contacts and other organizations to find a possible alternative for the family.

The most difficult part about the work we are doing is the fact that when we look for answers to the many questions that come up, we have to look at alternatives, test them and only then do we find out if the answer is correct or not. To add to this, no two situations are ever alike and that is the reason that working with deprived communities and their children is a long journey.

Another thing that we are realizing as we continue our work is how little resource-and-knowledge sharing there is, among NGOs and civil society in India. If there were a platform, maybe as a website or a magazine that would feature and discuss problems and then have NGOs across India giving inputs and sharing experiences that are relevant to the topic, it would be an immense pooling of resources and learning.

We can start here at this post! Suggestions for alternative courses of action for the family discussed here?

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