Welham Girls School in Dehradun is one of the premier Indian boarding school for girls and come 14th April, there is going to be a two-day fair at the school called Kar Kamal. It will be a great opportunity to interact with other NGOs and our wonderful supporter/volunteer/DJ/a-whole-lot-of-other-things has been working hard to think of ideas for products that we can sell and that will use our children’s paintings on these useful and decorative products. All who read this and are in town then are welcome to find us at Kar Kamal.Questions that are more of suspicions about why we take the pain to run the program at Gandhi Park with our kids are rampant among them and their mothers, who occasionally meet us at Astley Hall. Every now and then, we hear stories of how we are supposedly making money selling off the paintings that the kids make and concerned mothers feel the kids are being ripped off since we feed them only lunch at 12 bucks a plate against the trillions we make on the paintings. A few days ago Naina said to me that one of the ladies who hangs around in the area warned the children to not mingle with us because she was convinced we would take away their kidneys and sell them!Such fears sounded ridiculous to me and others in the first place. But then here is the question: why should the folks not be suspicious? After all, what has ever been done for them without an ulterior reason? In the other project at Bindal that Shaila has been running for over two years now, people still come up to her and ask what benefit does she get out of working with them. Surely a salary at the least?
Such questions are not baseless. They reflect a mindset that is sadly- though reasonably- quite set in stone and is rationalized by the attitude of the larger society that conveniently treats them as invisible beings. The local public representative will make his/her appearance suspiciously close to the municipal elections and police personnel will take it upon themselves to defend the “gentle, middle-class” against our group of people unless the law-enforcers’ pockets are not filled with greasy notes from the slums and temporary shelters of the migrants. Most social workers will walk into their homes only if there is a media microphone and a camera or two following. Others will be content stopping briefly on their way to a swanky restaurant or an overpriced clothes showroom to give free gyaan to begging children on how they should get an education or at least take a bath for God’s sake.
So when all of this is put together, it is no surprise that our slum dwellers, street children, migrant folks and all other “marginalized” (that is the most stylish word these days) communities will not trust anything good in you. It is the price that all of us pay for the mistakes of almost all of us.