I wanted to write about something that made me smile and feel hopeful. And this did both. And more.
I was in the middle of an assignment. This included an interaction with children living with their families in an unregistered slum location in a city. There were six girls – all part of a children’s group supported by two non government organisations (NGO) under a project. Five of the girls were around 10- 12/13 years old. One girl was older – about 15/16 years. I had already spoken to some of the older children. So, I was keen to talk to them about their lives, what they considered as risks (whether framed as a ‘disaster’ or not), what they had done so far and, what else/more they wanted to do. So, here we were – sitting close to each other on a small, raised bed within a one room house.
It was a VERY animated discussion. The younger girls tried to speak one at a time. But, too often, one would feel the need to correct another or add something. Or just say something completely different. The older girl would then feel compelled to step in, to maintain order. I let the conversations flow, the internal dynamics to emerge. The points of unanimous concern as well as those single, different and significant notes – all of these came up. It was an interesting and enriching experience for me. I got what I was looking for. I wrapped up the discussion and thanked all of them for their frank and enthusiastic participation. And, usually, that would have been the end of it.
But the girls – the younger ones – decided that the staff from the local NGO and I needed to be served tea. They had a quick discussion. There was consensus. Each girl would go home and get one rupee. This would be pooled to buy two cups of tea. They jumped off the bed and ran out of the house. Within minutes, they had returned with two cups of tea and four biscuits. The girls had probably needed to take more than one rupee from their homes. The staff and I were offered the tea and biscuits. I broke my biscuit into multiple pieces to share with them. But the girls flatly refused to take even a small piece. “This is for you. We got it for you,” was the response. So, the staff and I had the tea and the biscuits while the girls sat around us.
I was very moved by this – this gesture of care and kindness and hospitality. Maybe, it wasn’t much. Maybe, they do it for all visitors. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. But, somehow, it made me feel hopeful. As long as we are able to think of others and care for them in this beautiful, instinctive manner – maybe, all is not lost. And that is something worth holding on to. Especially now.