5.10.2013

Omit Has Dreams

The past few weeks Hannah has been holding interviews with some of the children and women in Lakhtokia. She is doing this to help us get to know them better so that we can identify their wants, needs and challenges. Hannah is a natural with everyone, I am not surprised that she easily got people to open up to her even through a translator. Her energy and compassion just shines; when she came back from a trip to the slums last Wednesday I could tell that some of the stories had really affected her. She said she had talked with one of our favorite children named Omit, a boy we all love to bits. One thing Hannah and I have noticed is the stark contrast in his personality when we see him on the street versus in the slum. We have both run into him a few times while he is out picking recyclables and he hangs his head, diverts his eyes from ours and seems full of shame. It breaks me. I have had this happen and then seen him in the slum literally five minutes later; he runs up and gives me the Omit smile and a huge hug. Like he is not the same boy, and I couldn't understand why this was. What Hannah learned made us both break down in tears as she recounted his thoughts:

"Omit has lived in the Lakhtokia slum his entire life. He is an 8 to 9-year-old boy (he does not know his exact age), he has an older brother, and his other two siblings have died of unknown causes. His dad was a victim of human trafficking one year ago. He has no idea where his dad is or what his dad is doing. He does know one thing: “I will never see my Dad again.”

Most of Omit’s time is spent picking up trash. The money he collects each day supports his older brother, his mom, and himself for the day. He said in an average day he can collect anywhere from 20 Rs (37 cents) to 100 Rs (2 dollars), and, “if I am lucky, 200 Rs (4 dollars).”

Unlike most boys, Omit does not sniff dendrites. He did not explain why but I assume it is because he spends most, if not all, of his day wandering around Guwahati with a massive bag on his back sifting through the dumpsters and does not have time to get high. Like most other people in the slum, Omit is very scared of the police. But he continues to work hard to support he and his family.

Every interview that I did, I asked people, “What is your biggest dream in life?” When Trideep (the translator) asked this question to Omit, he sort of sat there for a little while thinking. After ten seconds of what looked like intense thoughts running through his head, Omit said, “I want to be a good person. I want to be different from everybody else.” Trideep then asked him, “And how will you do that?” He sat there again, thinking very hard about how he was going to be different. “Hmm… hmm…” and then his Assamese poured out. Trideep turned to me and said, “Be prepared: He said, ‘I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.’”

And so it goes.

Pratyasha is here for this: to help those who are stuck in this cycle and cannot get out, to help Omit learn how he can become different from everybody else, to provide opportunities that can help kids accomplish their far fetched dreams. Now you understand why Omit is so shy and ashamed when we run into him on the streets as he throws cardboard into his trash bag. He wants to be different, he is not proud of where he comes from, or how much trash he collects during the day. Omit wants something totally outside of this. Instead of being graded on the quality and quantity of trash he collects, Omit wants to be graded on the knowledge that is inside his churning brain.

I collected a ton of stories. And after this day, I realized that every single person has an amazing story to tell in the Lakhtokia slum. Girl, boy, woman, man, young, old, jobless, student, shack owner, tea stall worker, and trash picker: they all have some sort of story. They all have something to relay. And they were all so happy to tell someone.

Just the fact that someone was interested in what they do on a day-to- day basis meant a lot. They do not care what I do with these stories. But they care that I want to know about their life, where every day is a constant battle.

Sending smiles from India,
Hannah"

Omit
Photo courtesy of Operation Smile- Peter Stuckings 

3 comments:

  1. Ah man, now I have feelings this early in the morning!!

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    Replies
    1. Early morning feelings are the pits! Hahah, sorry Nova!

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  2. Thank you for sharing their stories, they need to be heard!

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