I watched with great interest the documentary film Mother India: Life through the Eyes of the Orphan (2012). With over 31 million orphans living in India the film takes us into the lives of 25 abandoned or orphaned young people (ages between three and 25) who reside near the railway line in South India. I have been boiler service near me thinking a lot about India which is suffering severely from COVID. Today, the world sends material aid as well as prayers, blessings and the best wishes to our neighbors around the world and our brothers and sisters in India.
David Trotter and Shawn Scheinoha who conveyancing made the documentary, travelled first in the direction of Tenali (Andhra Pradesh) and its population of three hundred thousand, in 2004. They meet Geetha, Reddy, Nagareju, Lakshmi, Kotegwari, Polayya, Yellapah, Satkyananda, Aadamma, Yesu, Abdullabi, Baachir, Chilipada, Raja, Ramu, Sekar, Siva, Gopi, P. Gopi, Hussen, Kiran, Mark, Nageswararao, Nami, and Narendra Such beautiful names shining human beings who are worthy of our attention. David and Shawn talked to the children and tried to see life with their eyes. The children sleep in a group on the floor of a dirt or cement cement filled with condoms and needles. There are some who sleep in front of stores. They swaddled themselves in blankets to prevent mosquitoes while also being identified as a vulnerable young person.
The kids beg for money for food from the train’s passengers often by “cleaning” or sweeping the train car’s floors, before holding out their hands for either one rupee or (one of two dollars). When they finish the day, they might be able to afford one or two dollars to purchase food items. The leader of the group was friendly Reddy (“I only have my mother; she beat me, and I quit. “) He was in his 20s, but living for more than 10 years on the street. Reddy would gather the group to assist each other. Lakshmi was victimized by a foster parent who burnt her with a hot steel rod. When her boyfriend saw her speaking to another boy, he forced her to put her hand in the middle of the train. She lost two fingers. While crying, she revealed that she had a baby boy who died at the age of three days. Satkyananda’s parents died in a crash on a bus. Nagareju’s father beat him and he ran away. A third of the children had missing limbs that was injured, usually due to falling while jumping on the train (train hopping). Children first wanted show David and Shawn their wounds: missing fingers, hands, arm, leg, deep lesions. It’s a huge, unseen and often overlooked aspect of the pain they endured.
“Not above but among,” David and Shawn decide to leave their comfy ventilated Gotham Hotel room and sleep alongside homeless youth on the concrete and dirt floor. They had to endure, even if just for a short time an exposure to the hot temperatures and the swarm of mosquitoes that bit. In the morning they saw children snuggled sleeping together, a cluster of security like a pack of puppies, wrapped in mounds. The kids brush their teeth on the well using their fingers. They also produce powder in the area by the rubbing of bricks.
The young people are invited to to a fair where all are entertained by fun with games, rides, and games, taking their minds off all the time to endure. Everyone had “bad habits” to numb the pain in their bleak lives. Many smoked cigarettes or chewed tobacco or chewed gum, while others, recklessly sharing needles, injected some unknown substance that “took away the sadness.” A few “huffed” by sucking in the fumes from rags infected with Erazex “White-Out” correction fluid priced at 50 cents “to not feel the pain of police beatings cold and rain in winter, and mosquito bites. “A trip to the burial location of a child who had died three weeks before of an overdose has been recorded.
The children were sexually assaulted and the older ones abused the children younger. Geetha tells the story of being sold to the red-light district sexual sex to earn money. Serendipitously, two men who recognized him took him back to the youth hostel. In prayer, with his hands folded, Geetha says, “I am thankful to these two men.” HIV/AIDS is a common affliction among these young people.
But they still have dreams and hopes. Their eyes will never stop lighting up. “I want to run my own business and enjoy life as a normal person.” “I want to be a mechanic.” “I want a good house and to marry.” “I want to get a house for myself.” David and Shawn are able to talk to their friends who are at Harvest India, to place in their main orphanage the two youngest children, their siblings, Kotegwari, a seven-year-old girl, and Polayya the boy, who is three years old. The group fills the bus, and then visit the orphanage. There, they get haircuts, shower and receive new clothing, and are treated to a delicious meal of chicken, various curries and rice as well as yogurt. Children were beaming, “walking different,” with freshness, self-respect, and respect.
Reddy and the children encourage Kotegwari and Polayya to relocate to the orphanage, but they will never choose to reside there. Suresh as well as Christina Kumar oversee daily operations of Harvest India, a service to, with and from orphaned abandoned, and unaccompanied children. They offer a safe haven to 1400 children at 26 different places. Harvest India has been around for over 40 years. Suresh claims that the children who are discarded are depressed, unsure they feel abandoned, betrayed, homeless, neglected there is no one to talk to, abuse, without mother and father, consumed rather than cared for, exploited rather than loved. Suresh himself grew up in an orphanage where, after his father died early, the mother had found work. Suresh and Christina start the process where Kotegwari and Polayya are accepted as part of Harvest India.
Harvest India with all the good that it is doing is not without criticism (fair or unjust) because it isn’t honest about its Christian mission to convert 74% of the Hindu and 12% Muslim population (and other minor faiths) to Christianity which is currently 6percent of the population of India. But, the film is raising the consciousness of our minds and heart, influencing our world to the positive, small steps to potentially big healing.