Friday, April 15, 2005

Change......slow but sure.

In all my years in India, I was always struck by the difference between my upper "middle class" lifestyle, and the lives of those less fortunate. And I always thought about it when I looked at the domestic help, maidservants and security guards in my apartment complex. They all spent a good part of their day (and lives) amidst modest affluence, worked amongst it, and then had to go back to their own homes and families and live with so much less. I've often wondered if their lives will ever change, and if subsequent generations will live better lives.

But perhaps it will.

My own family employs a housekeeper/maid, Lakshmi. She's always smiling and cheerful, and works at an exceedingly rapid pace (much to the annoyance of my mother, who thinks she cuts corners while sweeping the floor). She's also polite and respectful (calls me "Anna", though I've told her not to, and I don't think I'm much older than her anyway), and more importantly, "half educated". I say "half educated" because she had the opportunity to go to school (something her parents did not), but flunked 9th grade and dropped out. Still, she is very literate, reads an occational Kannada newspaper, and is quite aware of the world and understands issues very well. She's also able to find other odd jobs to supplement her family income, and is well liked by most of her employers. A small step up in her world. But what's more important is that she values that little education she had. And has dreams for her daughter, Sushmita.

Sushmita is an adorable (now six year old?) kid. She goes to school ("English medium", emphasizes Lakshmi), and gets 90% or more in all her exams (whatever that means for a first grader). She sometimes comes to our house with her mom (on holidays, when she can't be left alone at home), and watches TV. She doesn't like cricket (which is what I mostly watch on visits to India), and demands that Kannada film songs be shown. Always neat and clean, with ribbons matching her outfit for the day, she seems just like any other little girl going to school. And is. And I think her future is going to be much better than her parents. I think the future is not too bad. Perhaps the lives of subsequent generations will indeed change for the better.

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