While in India, we visited several schools that had been started in the slums by a partnership between Friends Church in Yorba Linda, CA and Operation Mobilization/India. The students in these schools are nearly all Dalit children. You may know that there is a caste system in India that came about primarily through Hindu teaching. Technically speaking, there are four main castes…with that Brahmans at the top – the priestly class. There is what is largely considered a fifth caste, the Dalits. They were once called the “untouchables” because members of the higher castes believed they would be polluted if they came into physical contact with a Dalit. The Dalits really are not a caste…they are considered to lowly to be in a caste and are relegated to jobs like cleaning toilets, dealing with dead animals, etc. They are told from the time they are born that they are nothing, that they amount to nothing, and that they are worth nothing. It has had tragic consequences.
Today’s photo was taken at one such slum school. There are no people in the photo but I think it still communicates the thought that entered my mind when I saw this scene: children are children, whether they are the offspring of kings or of Dalits. They love to be children – to have colorful and fanciful cartoons characters painted on walls, to have shoes to wear that are colorful and fun to wear (as I looked at these shoes, they reminded me of the shoes of my grandchildren). They laugh, they cry, they get hungry and sick, they love their moms and dads and are loved in return (in most cases).
When I saw this string of shoes sitting outside of a classroom, I almost wept, thinking of my little grandchildren back in the states who go to school like the Dalit children do, but who are told that they can do or become anything they want to be. Quite a different culture. But thankfully, through education, the plight of the Dalits is slowly showing signs of improving. Just being able to speak English gives them huge advantages as far as work possibilities in later years in India.
So here’s to children: I wish you all a happy and safe and protected childhood. You will have to grow up too soon the way it is, so laugh and have fun wherever you are because you are precious and valuable and one-of-a-kind!!!
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Louisa May Alcott despised little girls and only wrote her classic novel, Little Women, because she wanted the money.