Posts Tagged ‘ ishwar ’

Ishwar’s surprise call

At around 4:00 I got a phone call from Ishwar; from a number that I haven’t saved as his. He said that he was coming home, to my home. I said I wasn’t there yet and that he’d have to wait. I didn’t understand the next few things he says. I can piece things together from his gestures and facial expressions when we’re walking, but doing that over the phone while I’m in the office is pretty impossible. I tried calling back a few times and when I finally got through he said that I should hurry to his house. School starts tomorrow, something might have happened that he wants to show or tell, maybe he wanted to give me a drawing from his birthday present; I didn’t know. Because I get to work so early on Thursdays I was able to pick up and leave. I met his brother (cousin-brother I believe) who just got 84% on his SSC exam. This is a 10th standard exam that basically determines where you can go to college as well as many other things in your life. If you get above a 35% you pass. It’s the percentage for the entire state. An 85% is really, really good. He spoke English really well and wants to be an ophthalmologist. He got a scholarship to study science at a local college. It’s a pretty big deal for them. We were so excited. Ishwar starts school tomorrow. He wanted to show off his brother. We also found out that none of the other kids are going to school, including Ganesh. He recently started to work at the Chinese roadside restaurant. He’s too small for this. I wasn’t expecting him to say that he wasn’t going to school.
On the ride back from class I spoke with Vineet about how sad it was that they’re not going. Most of them are too old for their grades anyway. He made the point that unless the parents are slightly progressive and they see the value in sending their kid to school in the long term, it’s only worth it to have them start working at 13 or so. This is my profession and I have no influence on these kids. Honestly, I can’t tell them that it’s worth it in this system either. I came too late. I want to pick up Ishwar and run away, send him to a fancy private school where he’ll get a real education; I could do something like that, but I don’t want to be that white foreigner lady who comes in and does something like that. This isn’t my job, this isn’t where I have to be politically correct. Why can’t I just do that? I know, I can’t, but it doesn’t take away that desire to do so.
We got our results at work as well. We did really well as an organization. Some kids did as well and better than Ishwar’s brother. I know at least that’s the place where I’ve made a mark. That’s a way to end on a positive I guess. Pictures of last weekend and Ishwar’s birthday coming soon.

Different kind of Friday night

Today is a vacation day. It feels like it. I have nothing to do but relax and enjoy the day. I feel like often I write when I have days like this – which may lead one to believe that I actually rest a lot more than I do, but I feel like I never have a day. I also, as Jessica pointed out, as my parents have pointed out, load everything on my plate. I barely have an evening to myself where there isn’t some activity, where some friends haven’t planned something – sometimes as little as getting juice or just coming over to hang out. I kept it like that for a reason. When I first got here I wanted to be busy. I didn’t want to think about home, I didn’t want to miss anyone or anything. Now that this has turned into a home, I just like seeing my friends, doing various things even just getting some juice or ice cream with them. Right now at Naturals (a local ice cream store that’s amazing and sells ice cream based on fruits that are in season) has a mango option. They put in mango ice cream, mango pieces (and they put in a lot, not like many ice cream places in the US that only give you 5-8 fruit pieces) and then on top of that they give you a scoop of malai ice cream. It’s like heaven for your taste buds.
Anyway, last night was a night I planned to come home, take a walk, make dinner, have a glass of wine and watch a movie in the AC room and fall asleep. That, of course, didn’t happen. It was Ishwar’s sister’s wedding on Tuesday. In his community, girls get married at 18, boys at 20. He invited us, he specifically invited me, and none of us went. On Thursday I passed by the Chinese corner place where some of the other kids work and Chapel mentioned that Ishwar was mad, like really mad. He doesn’t care that we had to work, he wanted us to go, and we disappointed him. I went to his house last night to make amends.
Sagar and I already were trying to make a “make up” activity. We found a circus to take them to and I was excited to give them the good news. It’s been a while since we’ve taken them on a trip. Ritesh met me there to meet them. None of our kids were outside when we got there, but one kid who we’ve spoke to before told us to come and he’d take us to Ishwar’s house. I had been inside their community before, but not like this. Ishwar met us. His mom and sister were both outside the house and we met them, and everyone else who just happened to walk by. Ishwar told us how he or one of the other kids was related to anyone. He asked if we had eaten. I told him my plan to go home. We were invited in to eat at his grandmother’s house. The dal chaval was so good, Ritesh thought it amazing. We continued to meet people as they came in and out of the house. We met his new brother in law. Some of the older boys came in to take a picture. He speaks Kanada with his family, Hindi with us, and Marthi in school. Later on in the evening he told me he wants me to teach him a bit of English. His accent was pretty good. After we ate we decided to visit the other boys who were working. After some conversation with them, he asked, didi what are we doing now? They spoke about how tonight there’s a dance show at the new mall down the road – this mall is another one of these huge malls with super pricey stores (even by American standards) on the inside and half of the stores aren’t even built yet and just have coming soon signs outside of them even though you’re unsure about when or what is coming soon). So we reminded them that today we’d be going to see the circus. Ishwar wanted to see the mall, so we went.
It’s funny because Ishwar is small, if he passes his exams, he’ll go to 8th standard next year. It’s also hard to get rid of the shy boy image that he had with us for so many months. On our walk to the mall he mentioned things like that they didn’t go into the mall because if they went in, the guards would see their clothing, know they’re from the slums, and then kick them out. Once, in fact, they went in the mall (I’m not sure who all they is), got ice cream and they were kicked out. He also said that he never really wanted to bring me into the community before because I’m a foreigner and people would act or look at me differently, maybe even ask for money or candy. None of that happened last night.
The mall was a great experience for him. He knows he gets to do these things because he’s with me. I don’t need to remind him of that, and sometimes I go back and forth wondering if I’m spoiling the kids – do they associate foreigner with gifts and cool experiences? They don’t ask for things from us. In fact, when we gave them capoeira shirts, they were reluctant to take them – they only took them after they saw that I was giving everyone shirts. And, part of it is true. Foreigners come here and do things like me, work in NGOs, foreigners in general have more money to spend. What’s wrong with them seeing reality as long as they don’t abuse it? They don’t include their friends, they never ask for anything, they know how to behave. It’s a moral conflict I think about often.
Last night at the mall, as I was saying, was awesome. We went on the escalator. Have you ever seen anyone use technology for the first time? To see his face was beyond priceless. He really wanted to go on the escalators. His steps on the escalator were very intentionally placed, he let his feet slide off the first time going up, and calculated his steps off. He held my hand in the glass elevator when we went down because he couldn’t find his balance. He actually just held my hand the whole time. Ritesh took him in to use the bathroom, which was as he said, pretty amazing. Ritesh made him use everything –whatever that means. We walked around and in some of the fun smelly stores we went in. He liked a certain kind of soap I made him smell. We tried to put some body spray on him but the bottle was empty. I would think that we were a funny sight to see. In a fancy mall you have a foreigner girl, an Indian guy and an Indian kid who is definitely of no relation to either of them. No one really looked twice at us. It was nice, I bet it was nice for Ishwar as well. We went to the huge supermarket in the basement as well. He had fun there and when we came to the pressure cookers he spoke about the different ones they have. The meat and fish department was pretty entertaining as well. He eats Chicken on Fridays sometimes. I think we went on the escalator and elevator several times, just for fun. It was a lot of fun.
As we went up and out of the mall we stopped and looked at the fancy Mercedes they had displayed. He touched it and we looked inside and ooed and aaahed. There was a promotional video and during small clips they showed New York. I got excited for him to see it, if only for a millisecond. He calls New York my village. Your village is where your from even though you don’t live there. Many village people here, like most other countries, move into cities, to the slums, and they go back to their villages during vacations. On the way back we passed by the other kids again and he switched into Kanada to tell them what we did. As we left him back at his house, he gave a rundown of today’s activities. We told we’d meet them at 6 because the circus starts at 7. He said that I have to get there at 5:30, we’d sit, and everyone would get there at 6, it would take 5 minutes to get everyone in the car and then we’d go and see the circus and then at 9 we would come back, maybe 10. It was adorable. He reminds me of me when I get excited and speak really fast about everything that’s going to happen. Ritesh and I walked to get some ice cream and discuss what had just happened. Both of us were fascinated with him.
I’ll stop here for now. There are other things going on this weekend. Tomorrow is a 5k – I’m thinking of doing it barefoot (there’s a category for that). After that we’re giving a mini capoeira demo to the running group, at 4 I’m doing a mini samba demo for International Dance Day with one dance group and then at 6 a capoeira demo for another dance group. It’ll be fun and exhausting. Again, there’s usually only one day off. Although…Tuesday, I just found out is Labour Day, which means, another day off. We’ll see what I can fill my time with then.

I’m Pink

I’m pink, literally. Yesterday was Holi. For a foreigner, yesterday was a day off in order to have a colorful water fight. It was awesome. I got to sleep in, did a laundry, and was shocked and rushed by a phone call at 11:00 on the dot by Ishwar who said, “Didi, kub ayenge?” We were late by 15 minutes and he wanted us there fast; the kids were waiting. It was the first time they have ever called. Manoj looked at me as if I was kidding, speaking on the phone in Hindi to our group of kids. We picked up 7 (one more, Vital, came along) and headed to Sagar’s for the festivities. Sagar was already rainbow colored; he soon would also be muddy and egged, as would I.
We played at Sagar’s for about 2 hours, running around, throwing color, playing with the pinchgani (that’s definitely wrong, but essentially it’s a type of water gun), throwing each other in the mud, getting egg smashed on our heads, and laughing at everyone. We dropped the kids (the car now absolutely filthy and pinky) and went to another party that our friend got us passes to because it was his birthday. I couldn’t get enough of saying we’re going to a Holi birthday party. There was a setup so that it was “raining” outside, there were sprinklers above our heads, music blasting, and colors everywhere. I kind of cringe when I think about the water wasted and the pollution caused by this holiday. There are other holidays that make me cringe even more though.
Fully played out, we ventured to get burgers (Indian style, no beef) at a place by our place. We were all a few shades pinker, purpler, and darker. Manoj and I are the only people with color still on us. Why, because apparently you’re supposed to put cocoanut oil on your body before playing Holi. I’m pink. I showered three times and I’m still very pink.
I’m preparing for the marathon, being pink and all. Wish me luck.

This is Ishwar and Ganesh.


I told a friend of mine in the US about Ishwar, how he came to the capoeira class on Wednesday and did the entire class with one hand injured. Ved asked me to tell him a bit about Ishwar, about why he’s my favorite. I thought I would share it here too. Some other stuff came out when I was talking about Ishwar. It’s true, I thought I’d keep it in there too.

Ishwar is sweet and genuine and I think a little crazy (he gives funny faces sometimes and looks like he might be talking to himself inside his head) but I think that only adds to his cuteness. He’s small, in 7th standard but only comes up to mid arm. You can tell that him and the rest of the kids are malnourished a bit. He keeps himself looking very clean, cleaner than the other kids. He always puts a bit of oil in his hair, almost always wears the same blue plaid shirt and jeans. The other kids often wear the same clothes all the time, but he keeps himself very well put together. He’s also the least masti-ful of all the kids, pretty quiet in general. But when he speaks and he opens up, he speaks like he did last night. His sister passed 10th standard 3 years ago. I’m unsure if she still lives at home with him and his mom. His father lives in their village, which I don’t think is very far. Some of the kids villages are in Karnataka. Hanging out with the kids makes me super sad though. Lingapa, we call him Chapel – in Portuguese (Topi in Hindi) because he always wears the same hat, is at least 2 years older than Ishwar. He’s in 3rd standard. The first few times I thought I heard wrong. There’s nothing I’m really doing for them in the long run. They work at that corner Chinese place out in the cold almost every night. (Ishwar doesn’t). They’ve been stripped of their childhood, they don’t have a good education, they have a bleak future. I know I’m working with other kids in a good program, but it hurts to see these kids, my kids, or so I call them, in such a dismal situation. I’m sure they’ll be fine, but I wish there was something I could do. That’s Ishwar.