Nov.29th: Playground Justice

Today I woke up to discover that the local auto-stand was having a Karnataka Pride day. Karnataka is the state that Bengaluru is the capital of.  The Autos were dressed up in flowers, finger paints, and flags. The driver from yesterday remembered my name and came up to me with, “ Hello Deren” and an open double palmed handshake. He showed all his friends that he knew me. Then he put his scarf on me and took a photo with me. His name is Sunil. He speaks a good amount of English so he will be my go to driver. I took his number. His auto had a huge flag hanging from the side. The flag was about the size of the whole vehicle. It made the vehicle look like a giant moving flag. He asked to pose with me and I take a photo.

I had to break bills at the store again. As I neared the store the begging girls came up to me. They, are not starving, but they just want sweets. As they followed be tugging at my arms the store security guard lifted his baton to hit them. I was a little shocked at his reaction. He kicked them away like dogs. The auto drivers also sulked at them. I don’t think that someone would do that to a truly starving person. The crowds reaction to them made me think that the girls were just in it for sweets. A person doesn’t need to be starving to get my attention. I broke my bills on orange juice, cookies, and chocolate for the girls. I should have got them nutrition formula, milk, a school uniform, school supplies, a decent place to live, a family that values education, clean water, and the internet. Until then cookies will have to do I guess.

I arrived at school on Sunil’s giant moving flag. School was really wonderful. I love every minute of it. Last night I got in touch with a 23 year old Belgian man who is coming to stay with me in December. He loved the school so much the first time he volunteered that he is returning again. Hearing about how much he liked the school and how he missed the kids made me realize that this time is very precious. Its wonderful to like something so much that you hold it as precious so soon after saying hello. It inspired me to take more interest in all the kids as individuals rather than as a whole student body. An excellent change of perspective.

At school I watched some kindergarteners playing at recess. One little girl was playing with a broom when I little boy came up and started to pull it out of her hands. Both started crying. The boy was about to win before I took the broom away and put it somewhere either of them could reach. This made them both cry more. I felt sorry for the little girl. The clever boy ran away crying and told an older boy his version of the story. Then the older boy, thinking that he was on the good side, asked me to give the broom back. I didn’t want to, but I resigned from the whole matter cause too many kids were crying and making a scene and making me look bad. The boy got the broom back, which I grudgingly handed to him. The little girl looked at me even more broken hearted. She had trusted me not to give it to him and now that I was backing away I gave it back. I wasn’t happy with this child’s play. As I walked away another older boy came up to the boy with the broom and stole it from him and left him crying again anyway. I don’t completely understand what I witnessed, but I think it was a lesson about how one bad deed begets another.

I learned that one of the teachers had been to Japan. I wondered how she could fathom living in India after seeing Japan. She just sorta chuckled to me about how there was no dust in Japan and no troubles, but still the people get sick. That Japan was a beautiful and curious place, but there wasn’t any jealously about the lifestyle disparity between the two countries. I liked that attitude. Many people focus on India the Poor. They don’t know that it is also India the Beloved Home of almost a billion people. Many of whom wouldn’t trade India for a comfortable country.

School finished with a mass assembly. The kids are preparing for tomorrow’s Sports Day. There will be an all-branch wide sports competition that the school is humming with excitement for. I look forward to that.

 

After school I had my Hindi/Kannada tutor. Kannada will be much more practical for me, since I’ll need it for directions and haggling with auto-drivers.

 

I came home and cooked dinner without even thinking about it. I mechanically made rice and chicken curry. I soaked my clothes in two buckets of hot water and stirred the rice intermittently. Doing laundry by hand is really interesting. It shocks me to see how cloudy the water gets after one shirt. I don’t think that it’s possible for a shirt to get so dusty and dirty in other places. The dusty air and close contact with the children slowly coats me in dust. Like many of the smaller kids, I don’t wear shoes during school. This makes my feet dark red with earth. When I shower the water is flush with my dust. Bengaluri people has a high tolerance for dusty clothing. The red Earth fades everyone’s clothing with natural hue.

 

I have to do my laundry naked to keep my clean clothing dry. I decided to do laundry around the time that the power goes out, since it can be done in  pitch black without power. I committed myself to finishing it even if the power went out. My bathroom has no windows so a power outage would leave me in utter darkness. The power didn’t go out and I was able to finish in thirty minutes. The harsh detergent left my hands dry and my skin cracking. It’s a good pain though.

 

I recently realized that, wizard jokes aside, my doorman has a twin. The night I made the doorman tea and he didn’t accept warmly was the first night I interacted with his twin. The only difference between the original and the twin was that the twin had more hair. I noticed this once and I thought that the doorman was wearing a wig. The moment I really realized that the doorman was a twin was when he asked me for food. The other man never gave me the vibe of directly asking. The gesture for food in India is to put your thumb, pointer, and middle finger together and brush them against your lips. This gesture seems primeval and harsh from someone asking for food. I was sort of annoyed that he was acting me. When I offered he was hesitantly accepting, but now the twin was asking directly and pointing to my grocery bags when I came home from the store. Now I feel a hostage to share.

 

When it comes to hunger there are simply three ways to deal with it ignorance, indifference, and facing it. This twin doorman and the girls who directly ask me for food are not starving. However, if they ask me for food I will give it to them. Even though they are using my generosity, I don’t want to become indifferent. Even if 99% of the people who are asking me for food are not in desperate need, I don’t want gradual distain toward them to make me hesitate from helping the truly needy.

 

The poverty here is wide spread and of course you can’t help everyone, but you can help the people who ask for it directly. Not every beggar is really asking you, they are just asking the white man. When a person is really asking you-you directly then there is an opportunity to help in a small way.

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