to the women in India

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To all the women who carry bricks forming homes, to all who sweep streets clean
To you who carry trash away, and to you whose hands role chapati day by day.

To all the women who bore a child, to those whom their fathers walked away
To you who mother the orphans, and to you who carry the load of your family.

To all the women who teach children of tomorrow, to all who doctor the sick.
To you who risk picking trash at rail tracks, and to you who lay concrete roads.

To all the women exploited and treated as trash, to all who were sold for cash
To you who become politicians, and to you who take loans to be business owners.

You were created wonderfully, extravagantly, so beautiful you are.
Your flowing Saris reflect the color of your great worth.

To all who feel weak, you are strong.
To all who are forgotten, you are seen.
To all who are scared, your courage inspires.

To all who are dark, you are so lovely.

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the day the rain came

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I don’t know where to start.

Today I was moved to tears.

It was like watching a motion picture movie throughout my day. I didn’t know what was coming next – but kept receiving little clues along the way…leading me along a story.

I was picked up by Uncle, at the (un)expected time – all I knew is that we were going to the police station to register stating that I’m staying as a guest with Dr. Edwards (you know, in case I go missing or something…) However our journey led us first to Santwana, the children’s home, to pick up three kids who needed to go to the hospital to be checked for things, of which I have no clue.

There’s something unsettling about not being told – although I know it’s not on purpose. For one thing, there’s a language barrier – Suvita and Uncle speak very little English. And Dr Edwards seems to keep mum about the children’s condition. It’s just that I’m curious, for one, because I wonder what I’m being exposed to – but mostly because I want to know what the children are going through and what they are facing when they go to the hospital.

I want to carry the pain with them.

I never liked going to the hospital as a girl.

I have two distinct memories: Once I passed out, while drawing pictures for my ‘newspaper’ article… All I remember was drawing out the bad guys who were featured in the ‘latest news’ that I had conspired. The next thing I knew, I woke up and was on the floor. I had to go to the hospital to get poked multiple times and blood drawn for testing… I absolutely despised those needles. All I remember is being held down and screaming out of fear. It felt like torture.

Another time, I remember having the stomach flu and being so dehydrated from throwing up so much, that I started hyperventilating. My mom took me to the emergency room and had to push me in on a wheelchair… Again, I was afraid of the needles they would poke in my arms… but I do remember whatever they were pumping into my veins made me feel like I was floating on a pool.

It’s hard enough to go through those experiences as a child with parents… who you know are close by and experiencing the pain with you. But it’s another thing to know that these kids are facing the giants of the hospital with large menacing needles alone.

This is already the second time that I’ve gone with Ashvini in just a week’s time. Last week she was sent to get an ultrasound to view her organs as a sign to whether she should begin her Anti-Retro Viral drugs (used to control the HIV)… I don’t understand why or how it works with ARV’s and why she would start now… but it’s hard to imagine what it must be like knowing (if she knows) that these drugs will be a part of her daily experience from now on.

I later discovered that her visit to the hospital today was for her Herpes. When she came out from her appointment with the doctor, she had a look on her face expressing to me a sense of ‘that was awful’ but also relief that it was finished. On top of this, Ashvini is already ill with some kind of sore throat and fever – she hasn’t been going to school and sleeps most of the day. She can barely eat her rice and egg at lunchtime…

On the way back from the hospital, we made a stop at a cart on the road where they were freshly pressing sugar cane to make juice. While this reminds me of a lemonade stand, this is no delicate process, like squeezing a lemon. It takes a woman shoving stocks of sugar cane through a large wooden cog – while a man pushes a long rod with all his strength, turns the cog. He circles the cart again and again, until enough juice has been crushed out of the stock. Although it was certainly a nice gesture for them to introduce me to sugar cane juice, of which I thoroughly enjoyed(!) – this was the last thing that Ashvini needed in her body.

After returning home, the afternoon’s activities carried on. I was helping Lata to write a story for her homework… but then I noticed, sitting just behind Lata, Ashvini had tears streaming down her dark face. Something was in her mouth. I could tell from the glass of water that she was trying to swallow a pill, but couldn’t get it down. Even as a 12 year old, too old for the tiny chewable kids aspirins, I remember gagging every time I tried swallowing the ‘adult’ pills…

When no one seemed to be looking, she escaped to the bathroom…

All these thoughts started streaming through my mind – who helps her work through these things? Will she continue to spit out the pill every day, afraid to tell anyone because she’s afraid of being punished? Poor, poor Ashwini… She crawled back up into her bed looking so upset. My heart went out to her – by this time my empathy drive was kicked into high gear.

All I could do is stand at the side of her bunk, and put my hand on her back. I started lightly rubbing her back… I remember loving this as a child… my mother stroking my hand or my back on nights when I was scared, or in times when I was sick. She knew it helped me to fall asleep. Somehow I knew it was safe to fall asleep, as long as I could still feel that she was there…

I wished I could read her mind. She had her face in the pillow; it seemed she was trying to conceal her tears. I could only start praying over her – pleading for God to heal her, to comfort her, to be ever so near… tears started swelling in my eyes. In my mind, I cried out – ‘Oh, God – why? Why would a small girl have to go through such suffering and pain? Isn’t it enough that she doesn’t have parents? Why HIV? And why all this sickness?’

I’d been reading through the gospel of Matthew the last days – every day I read another story of healing. A bleeding woman, a leper, the lame, the blind… each story, a story of such desperate sickness and need. And in each story – He relieves and restores.

‘Jesus, can’t you do the same, now?!’

I asked her if I could read a book, or do something… I felt so helpless to meet her needs. Then, next to her pillow, I found a bright pink little book. On one side, her name was spelled out in colorful foam letters, on the other side – Jesus. Notes were written inside to Ashvini, from previous visitors… I started reading the notes out-loud to her.

“Ashvini, you are a lovely girl…you’re so beautiful… I’m so glad to know you… Jesus loves you, and so do I…” 

Over and over again – words of love, words of affirmation, words of truth spoken out over her. As I read, my voice started to tremble, reading these words over and over, I felt as though I were speaking words straight from the heart of God. Then the rain started to fall… lightly at first. The rain seemed to echo my tears as I continued to rub her back. In my heart it seemed as though God was crying with me, just as Jesus wept at the sight of tears over Lazurus’ death.

Then it poured – in great torrents – flashes of lightning and great thunder filled the sky.

It seemed as though God was crying for all the brokenness in the world. 

view from a rickshaw: part 1

As I’m not in India to do a lot of sight-seeing, I have to be creative with how I get shots of daily life outside of the children’s home. My time spent in the back of the rickshaw (the most common form of transport outside of a scooter – pictured in the first photo below) is my chance to make the most interesting of observations about the culture and life of India. It also provides a fun challenge for my photography as I have to be fast- it’s quite a bumpy ride and you have to kind of lean over to see out from below the awning. I also try to be a bit stealth with my big camera and not have it constantly sticking out on the way… It gives a nice glimpse into the Indian way of life.

So here’s part one of some street photography from the rickshaw:

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