I see such pictures and cringe. It is not about colour. Or race. It is about how, even with the goodness of our hearts, we do not understand whether anybody wants our help. According to the caption that appeared in the paper, the lady (I shall not name her or reveal her nationality) is a “follower of Mother Teresa’s principles” and has been visiting India to bathe these children. If a charitable act has to be performed, why bathe him in the street where he probably finds ways to get through, anyway?
Just look at the boy – his expression is a mixture of shame and awkwardness. He is held by a man, as though he is a convict.
There is no information about the boy. He is just a street-dweller, as though he does not have a name. How old is he? How did he get to be homeless? Does he have a family, where are they? Does he remember nothing? It is possible he was too young when he was cast off, but the city’s streets call you names. They give you fresh wounds, new identities.
Clothes and food must be welcome, though these kids manage to survive somehow. It is the bathing that puts me off. I have seen these children, agile of limb, jump into the sea off the Gateway of India. They play in muddied water. They do not avert their eyes and feel ashamed of bodies they keep alive as the souls struggle to breathe.
I want to know more about this boy than his torso being attended to by a pair of hands holding him while another pair rubs soap on his body and then pours water even as his eyes smart from the slightly burning sensation of what dare not be tears. That is a luxury he can ill-afford.
© Farzana Versey