We have some wonderful Indian (as in from India) friends in our neighborhood. We are at similar places in our lives in terms of age, and efforts to aid our children in caring for their kids. We watch our grandchildren, they watch theirs. She is a wonderful cook, and we are often the beneficiaries of their “leftovers!” Over the few years we have lived here, we have become fast friends. We have learned much about the Indian culture from them.
He called the other night to tell us about an Oprah Special on her visit to India that he thought we might enjoy, so we DVRd it, and watched it yesterday.
I have been seriously unable to think about much else since then. The tape is running in the back of my mind no matter what else I am doing.
The show began with a visit to a family in the slums of Mumbai. A man, his wife and three daughters live in a room the size of a large walk-in closet (10′x10′)…smaller than our master bathroom, where he had lived his whole life. There was a small kitchen area, and all their personal possessions, including clothing, are stored in small closet above the stove. In their living complex 60 people share a common shower “area” (no shower, water was brought into the room in buckets) and 4 restroom spaces, no running water – you use the facility, basically a hole in the floor, and pour water into it. The 5 of them sleep curled beside each other on the floor, taking up the whole of the available floor space in the unit. There is no furniture whatsoever.
The mother cared for her family, and a part of her everyday job was to haul buckets of water from a hose down the street that only flowed two hours a day, back for their daily use.
The father is employed, but wages are so low, that 1/3 of his total income goes to send the children to school. He takes them to school every morning on his way to work, the 4 of them piled onto a motor scooter. The 3 children all speak English, the eldest fluently. She is a remarkably poised young lady, happy, and grateful for all she has. She takes her schooling seriously, appreciating what the family sacrifices to educate her. She looks forward to the future, when she hopes to go to University in London and become a teacher.
The program went on to show the other side of Indian life, the affluence, and the contrast could not have been more stark. But it was this family that has stayed with me. They obviously love each other very much, and although the father broke down and wept for a moment in shame that he could not provide better for his family (he makes $200 a month working for a security firm,) they seemed happy in spite of their circumstance. I was extremely impressed with their courage, and ability to make a happy home in the face of such poverty.
I know I am a bleeding heart liberal. I feel a great deal of distress at the gap between the haves and the have nots, here as well as in the rest of the world. I do not understand why some work is valued so much more highly than other work. Why manual labor, the hardest work, produces a subsistence living, while being a movie star or a banker allows you a life of luxury.
I like to think that I don’t take my abundance for granted. I feel, as well as voice, gratitude for all I have in my life. But I don’t do enough to help those who do not have it so good. I don’t know what I’m going to do about it, but I feel the need to do something. Existing should not be so hard. It just shouldn’t.
***LATE PROGRAMMING NOTE: For those who missed it the first time, it looks like part one will replay Sunday night at 8pm, followed by part two at 9pm.