Category Archives: handicapped

No Touch………..

One of the hardest things about being back in Delhi is the poverty. The dirt ain’t so great – but the poverty. Seriously, there is no way to describe it – you have to see it for yourself. And you don’t really see it, you feel it. It is like the dirty air on your skin – smothering – it falls on your heart and constricts it. It hurts to see it and you cannot brush it off. I cannot even imagine what it does to a person to live it.

People (many, many people) here are truly starving – not just for food, but it would seem they must be starving for some sort of self worth. Starving for some way to care for themselves and their families. They cannot all be resigned to this – they cannot all believe that there is no higher purpose for their lives. There must be some spark inside of them that has not died out yet. Some survival instinct that is ready and waiting and literally begging to kick in.

Many people have said that human life isn’t that valuable in India – I had to admit it – but I think it might be true. At least, very poor human life. Otherwise, how could this continue?

In India, there is begging pretty much everywhere you go. It’s hard to accept as simply ” just the way it is” when you didn’t grow up with it constantly in your face. It’s hard to turn your head and close your wallet when you see it. Very hard to believe that a quick fix of a little money really does not make it better – but just perpetuates it.

The problem quickly becomes that if you share with one person – you better be ready to share with many. This is a horrible analogy – but it is like roaches – if you see one, you can be sure that there are many more watching, waiting for the crumbs to drop. There is also the reality that a great deal of the begging is really equivalent to organized crime. The beggars do not to keep the money.

Most beggars are not aggressive. Anyone begging is not allowed to physically touch anyone they are begging from. My understanding is that it is actually illegal for beggars to touch while begging. Most of them follow this rule – no touch – I think naturally, they just don’t touch people they do not know. But like everything in India, there are levels and some beggars push the limits. They will touch you and follow you. It can become quite uncomfortable and sometimes even a little scary. I have given myself permission to say “no touch!” firmly. But you do not walk away untouched whether they physically reach out for you or not.

It is hard to instantly become unsympathetic to those in need – even if it is a situation of neediness they choose. It is impossible to come to grips with the idea that they truly see this as their best option. That this is the best, most economical use of their time. The best way to feed their children and themselves.

It is hard to understand that giving a little money or a lot of food is not helpful. It is nightmarish to see children maimed and living in filth and selling ridiculous trinkets while standing in between cars on a busy street full of unsympathetic drivers. It is hard to keep the window of my air conditioned car closed.

In some respects America is not that different, there are poor people everywhere. Sure, America has people dripping with diamonds while others are simply dripping. It is not all even Steven. But in America, there is more of a real chance to rise out of a situation, if you are willing to work hard for it.

This is not to say that there are not a number of people fighting the good fight in India. There are. I have written about two women in previous posts. One is Karin Bedi and the other is Anou with Project Why. Can Support is another great organization – I will be joining their fight next week and working on the Walk for Life. There are quite a few wonderful people working hard to make life better. But clearly more are needed.

The problem is so vast that it must be hard to know where to begin.

That was true for me. I was overwhelmed by how to be helpful. So, frankly, I did not do much. A little here and there – but is was like a dropping a lit match in a volcano. Yeah, any impact was surely very quickly melted away. This time I hope to do better. You can scold me if I don’t.

I hope to leave India very much touched…….

The same 24 hours…………

We all meet people throughout our lives who seem to be able to stretch the clock. They make more happen in one day than it seems possible to accomplish in a full year. And yet they do it – over and over again. We are left to marvel and wonder – do they eat, do they sleep, do they have a magic vitamin, have they been invaded by aliens? Where do they get their energy from?

Let me introduce you to Anou. She created Project Why.

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In short, she created Project Why to help those who cannot help themselves. Of course, the story goes much deeper than that and it begins with her own daughter. Anou’s daughter struggled with the academic challenges of school. When I first met her, she laughed that she did what every good parent does and told her she did not have to go back. Then she resolved to help those children who struggled in this world.

This is Rani. She came to Project Why when she was 15 from not the best of circumstances. She exemplifies why Project Why is so important. She is now traveling the world to share Project Why’s story. She is a confident, beautiful, unassuming, and gracious young lady – her life is better because Anou carved out enough minutes in her day to help her. And now she is making her own difference in the world – carving out her own minutes.

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This is Meher. When Meher was a little bitty thing, she was burned terribly. I am not exactly clear what happened. But it doesn’t really matter – Meher needed some angels to lift her up and help her along her life’s journey. Guess who spread her wings once again? Anou and Project Why. They have raised enough money to help Meher with reconstructive and plastic surgeries. She is a vibrant girl who is full of joy and laughter and I believe a good dose of mischief. She lights up the room. And I am sure eventually she will light up the world.

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This school is one of the centers that Project Why uses to help children who live in slums. If I understood it correctly, they attend government schools as well, but Project Why teachers supplement their studies with much needed extra help. The boys go in the morning and the girls come in the afternoon.

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This is what the neighborhood looks like right outside the school.

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The American’s Womens Association had donated money for building materials for a roof for the school house – so these boys presented our Outreach Chair with a beautiful handmade card.

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We also went to visit the Women and Children’s Center. Here women learn to sew and how to become beauticians and children up to about age 14 take classes.

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I think this is their guard cow. He’s on it.

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This is another classroom. The children here were learning math.

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No, I did not offer to tutor. Remember, they are trying to improve their math skills. Ironically, this almost looks like something you would see in a shabby chic catalog.

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True to her original mission, Anou opened a center for mentally disabled children. Across the street from this center is also a residential center where a few of the children live.

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This girl could put any bollywood dancer to shame. She was magnificent.

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I had never heard of brittle bones disease until yesterday. This little girl has it. There is no cure. Her bones are deteriorating at a ridiculous rate and she will die from the complications from this disease – probably sooner than later. She is a bright, enthusiastic child who is eager to learn. She gets to do just that at Project Why.

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There is so much more to Project Why than just this blog post. Anou and Project Why help over 700 children in 7 locations throughout Delhi. They have made it possible for several children to receive open heart surgeries through their Hear Fix Hotel. They have given local women a safe place to fall when they need to escape from the toils of their daily lives. Project Why has taken in disabled children and given them a home. Five children from the slums are now attending a boarding school and are getting a proper education. The list goes on.

So I spent my day yesterday with some amazing people who stretch the bounds of compassion and generosity beyond all reasonable limits. Their clocks do not tick in real time – their clocks allow them to add minutes to each hour with spaces in between where kindness grows and humanity flourishes.

At the end of the day, I felt pretty much like an underachiever, realizing that I hold my minutes too tightly together and lose too many of them for no good reason. I realized how ungrateful I am at times for the complaints I have voiced in my life and I hope to spend my time, talents, and energy more wisely. I am sure to fall flat on the face of my watch with those ambitious goals – but I can dust myself off and start a new until I get it right.

There are a lot of different ways to support Project Why if you are so inclined. Here is a link if you are interested – Support Project Why.

Global Adjustments and At a Glance………

I mentioned the other day that I went to a presentation given by Ranjini Manian the CEO and founder of Global Adjustments.

It was very interesting on a number of levels. First of all, I won a prize! Yeah for me. It was this wash cloth. This washcloth was made by handicapped people and it is adorable. They may be handicapped but they sure are talented.

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I also won a cd that has the Indian National Anthem on it. Yeah for me again. ๐Ÿ˜Ž Here is a link to it if you want to hear it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZi3fwP09zw. This one is by AR Rahman – that’s right movie buffs – THE AR Rahman of Slumdog Million. Jai Ho indeed. It is a beautiful song.

And just because I am bi-partisan like that, here is a link to the U.S. National Anthem by Whitney Houston. And yes, I LOVE this song.

Now, back to the meeting. Global Adjustments is a group that helps expats get more comfortable in their new surroundings. As such, the presentation was focused on helping us survive our transitions. Now, this is a monumental task because there were probably 125 people at the meeting – about 10 were Americans, one was an Indian who left and has returned to live in India, and then there were people from everywhere else. So forget about a level playing field – there isn’t a lot of common ground – except for the fact that we were all willing to take on the adventure of moving far from home in hopes of growing as global citizens.

So there are some universal truths. You do not have to agree/like with them – but just knowing that they exist will help with your transition.

Here goes……..

Language

English by any other name is not necessarily the English you know. Communicating can be frustrating here. Many people hire staff who claim to speak English then get extremely frustrated when they have a hard time talking with them in English. As you know, this has NEVER happened to ME personally, but some poor other frustrated souls. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, what Ranjini recommended is to use fewer words. My hubby actually recommends this too. He is wicked smart like that.

The ever polite English woman might ask her cook for a cup of tea in this way …

It would be so lovely if you could possibly make me a little cup of tea, if you wouldn’t mind, please. Thank you so much.

Apparently, “a cup of tea, please” is much less muddled and easier to understand. Translation – less frustrating and it means you get that bloody cup of tea much faster.

Namaste

This is the word you use to greet someone in India. It means much more than just hello or nice to meet/see you. It literally means “I bow to the divine in you”. Now that is some kick arse kind of lovely – don’t you think? It is accompanied by holding your palms together at your chest and bending a little towards the person you are greeting.

Time

Time does not exactly stand still here – but it is a relative term. I have learned an important word – lugbug (I am not sure how to spell it – but that is how you I say it.) Lugbug means “about”. That is how time is measured here – about. It is not precise.

Ranjini gave the example of ASAP. To A-type Americans this means yesterday or at least right now. As SOON as possible. To Indians this means as soon as “p.a.u.s.i.b.l.e.” – whenever you get it done – pauses are possible.ย  See there is a big difference.

Dress

Indians dress much more conservatively than most Westerners. Knees and shoulders covered. Yes, even when it is 110+ degrees outside. Not everyone visiting/living here follows those guidelines – but really it is respectful to do so. It will save you stares and maybe even some jeers.

Ranjini also mentioned that if possible take an Indian woman with you shopping for clothes. Apparently, Indians can be critical of each others dress (women being critical must be universal hee hee) and there are some fabric/styles that are more acceptable than others. I don’t really follow this one too closely. I have never been too overly aware of what other people think about the way I dress – I am a pretty boring dresser – solids with solids – so I wear what I like. If I get laughed at, it won’t be the first time. But this good to know if you are at all self -conscious or if you are going to a business meeting or traditional Indian event. There I would seek out some guidance.

Yes/No/Silence

Apparently, most Indians consider it rude to say no to a request. So, many times, they will agree to do something that is simply not possible. Enter frustrated expat full of expectations that yes actually means yes. There’s that damn language barrier again. So, if you get silence or a not exactly a resounding yes response – it is important to ask follow-up questions. How are you going to do this? When are you going to do this? Are you absolutely sure you can do this?

Ranjini also suggested that it might be helpful to give people an “out” when you ask them something. Tell them that you want an honest answer and it is okay to say that it might be hard to accomplish or even that it cannot be done. Explain that it is better to be upfront with expectations than to disappoint you later.

This is not just in an office my friends, remember this for electricians, carpenters, cooks, drivers, EVERYBODY!

Heirarchy

It is important to remember that this is a hierarchical society – whether you agree with it or not. Bigger cities are getting away from this somewhat – but not entirely. Your driver will likely outrank your cook – who will outrank your housekeeper. You outrank them all. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Family

Indians are hugely attached and involved with their families. It is important to remember how significant their families and extended families are to them. Respect those bonds.

Domestic Help

I had several questions about this and sadly there was not enough time to open up a real discussion on this issue. But Ranjini said that most expats need to let go of the guilt of having staff. It is part of life here and in many ways it is (almost) a necessity. I still cannot bring myself to say it is required – but believe me it is extremely helpful and my life would stink without any help. So, I count my blessings on this one.