The African and Indian Boys- starving little children
Street in a Poor Neighbourhood
Two starving boys
This first part is a story I read in The Vancouver Sun Newspaper.
I read this story one day at work in Vancouver. It has always stayed with me.
The reporter is in her jeep. She is very hot and drinks liters of water. The driver stops at a checkpoint. Lining the road are pyramids of bodies. She notices a naked emaciated little boy walking along the road. He keeps stopping and examining the faces of the dead. He is looking for his mother, his father. He can’t find them. After a while he gives up and lies down in a space next to one of the bodies, to die.
After I read that story the first thing I thought was "How could she just watch that poor child and not do anything to help him?' And then immediately I remembered the little boy on the train.
This second story is an event from my youth which fills me with regret.
It was my first visit to India in the 1970's. I was travelling around by train with a friend. We did not know the social system at all. But that is no excuse. I should have done much more…
It is very hot
It is very hot on the second class non air-conditioned train which is slowly transporting us towards Madras. If I force open the windows for air too much dust and soot blows in. It is so hot I can hardly breath or move my hand to brush away the flies. I am drinking hot water from my water bottle. In the bench across from me are two beautifully dressed teenage girls Cindi and Reshmi. They are happy,energetic, and not sweating. They both speak excellent English. The girls are happily going to visit their auntie in Madras.
The train stops briefly. A tiny barefoot emaciated boy enters the car. The little boy stands in the aisle swaying to the motion of the train. He clutches a bench. He is dressed in a torn t shirt and shorts. His hair has turned blond from malnutrition. He is watching us. After a while he lies down on the floor still watching us.
“Who is he?” I ask.
“Oh he’s just a ticket less passenger,” says Reshmi.
“But why is he here?’
Reshmi speaks loudly to him He answers in a whisper.
“His mother put him on the train at the last stop. He had typhus, and she didn’t want him to die. So she told him to go to Madras and admit himself to a hospital.”
“How old is he?”
“He doesn't know.”
“What village is he from?”
“He just says “ the village”. I guess he doesn't know the name of his village.”
“How will he find his way home?”
“I don’t know.”
Reshmi asks the boy if he is thirsty.
She asks the boy if he is thirsty. He nods. She takes my water bottle and he tilts back his head, opening his mouth. She pours in some water without letting his lips touch the bottle. He gulps down the water and coughs. She hands me back my bottle.
When we get to the noisy crowded Madras station people are everywhere: pushing through the crowd, stepping over the crowds of people sleeping on the train platform. I motion for the boy to follow me. Reshmi and Cindy are engulfed in their aunts family and dissapear into the crowd. I flag a cab and tell the driver we need to take the boy to the hospital.
At first the station guard refuses to let the boy leave the train station with us, since he has no ticket to show at the exit. The taxi driver shouts at the guard until the guard finally gets fed up and angrily motions us through the exit. The driver says he will take us to a women and children’s hospital.
The hospital is in a poor area with garbage on the streets. The out patients is a big hot dusty room with a bench along one wall. It is packed with ill looking women and children.They are all very quiet. A fat nurse in spotless starched white sits behind a desk. I approach the desk and stand waiting but she pointedly ignores me. I do look pretty scruffy. We sit down on the bench and wait for an hour. Then the big nurse suddenly gets up and leaves. Lunch time.
I go outside to the burning sun and drink tea from a little kiosk. I give the boy some rupees but he just looks at them. He doesn’t understand money. I buy him some tea. He drinks it, but refuses the offer of a samosa. The chai shop walla speaks some English. He tells us the boy wants rice. But there is no rice.
I am dripping with sweat, uncertain what to do next. I am exhausted and decide to go to find a hotel. The nurse has to help the boy, eventually it will be his turn.
I leave the boy on the bench
I leave the boy on the bench in the outpatient department. I buy him a bottle of pop and shove some rupees in the little pocket of his shorts. When I go out to the street to find a taxi the little boy runs out. He tries to follow me into the taxi, but the chai shop walla shouts at him to go back inside.
A few days later a lady at the Theosophical Society tells me:
"Those hospital people would probably not have done anything to help the little boy. He needed some adult to speak up for him. "
She tells me I should have taken him to a charity like her society that helps children, and found a person willing to take responsibility for the boy. But by then I was far away. I couldn't remember the name or location of the hospital and I can’t remember if I ever learned the little boy’s name.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?
What can we do? Where can we volunteer or donate money?
There are good people working locally with organizations such as:
city food banks, Salvation Army, Neighbourhood houses and religious organizations.
There are great international organizations aimed at helping kid in trouble such as:
the Red Cross, United Nations Children's Foundation, The Steven Lewis Foundation, and other child hunger relief funds.