Small Hands, Oversized Problems

While sitting cross-legged in a circle of kindergartners whose consistent sequences were intermittently interrupted by the comparatively sizable bodies of my friends, my eyes shifted to my right, focusing on an old instructor. Or rather what was behind her. I caught the sight of a girl lying face down, bare-chested, with her back facing me. Although the instructor’s body was blocking the other half of the child’s body, I was able to discern the bones of her ever expanding and deflating chest cavity, sticking out of from the sides of the skin that made a zealous attempt to cover the frail and sharp-curved skeleton underneath. I glanced back at the smiling faces of other children for a fleeting moment and focused my attention back to her. Her back, at each breath, rising and ebbing like the gentle waves of a nighttime sea glimmering under the moonlight. As I looked more closely, there appeared circular lesions that were black at the center and turned purple as they expanded outward as if on a raid, driven by selfish desire, to conquer more life. Life, death, and hope in one room. A moment of dank submission sank in as a group of flies drunkenly danced over the scars. Children… When we stepped out, I lowered my head to watch my step all the while the heavy stanch of feces and disposed waste pasted on the dusty walkway, climbed up my nostrils and filled me with defeat. I lifted my head to see a thrash-strewn piece of land, around which rickety corrugated roofs of shanties sprawled around to add more breadth to the view. For some, this is where the first breath is taken. And the last is given.


            Each time I peek into, perhaps, some of the most revealing snippets of some people’s lives, I realize that those moments of brevity are also ones of permanency for some. That, though, was not just the picture of poverty and tough circumstances. That was the living image of human greed in flesh and bone. It was the struggle of the ones who were deprived of basic means of comfort and needs for survival due to the accumulation of those luxuries at the hands of others. But more than the small mountains of thrash that I saw after the leaving place, the image of that girl, weak from sickness, will really stay with me. Children are the ones who get affected by these circumstances the most and seeing that Manav Sadhna’s efforts significantly focus on providing better life standards for them as well as addressing other needs of the communities left a big impact on me.


            Following our visit to the second largest slum in Ahmedabad, my experiences sent my conscious flying back to the images of the jubilant children who shared the raw feeling of unconditional love with us through simple gestures such as waving at us, running to us with alacrity to shake our hands and ask: “a pranam?”, and always greeting us with heartwarming smiles. Children have the pristine capacity for harboring infinite love with no impurity as if to defy the ugliness that is scattered in the rest of the world. But it’s so easy for children to fall prey to the dangerous grip of the problems surrounding them. In order to implement change for the better, we have to ensure the well being of children and strive toward providing safe and healthy places where they can not only grow to become happy teenagers and then young adults, but where they can also be themselves and be encouraged to nurture more love. I’m thrilled to see that Manav Sadhna is doing exactly that.