Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Disparity - dealing with the maid's child (not so light reading)

We live amongst a few rather affluent people. The kids here all visit the US or UK or some similar place every year. They go to high end schools, are well versed with the Wii and latest gadgets, and all have good manners. They are rich kids. In a house down the road there are three children. These are the children of the cook and maid of the house. They live in two rooms attached to the house. The oldest amongst them is Sapna, one of Ashvin's best friends. Sapna is not a rich kid. In India there is a huge difference between rich and not rich.
As she sometimes does, Sapna joined us for a walk today. We went to the mall and had an ice cream each. We walked around a bit and then Ashvin had to use the restroom. As wanting to use the loo seems to be contagious amongst kids we all queued up at the family restroom. When Sapna was done I asked her if she had washed her hands. She said no, she did not know how the get the tap to work. I showed her how to move her hands so the motion detector would kick in. Then I asked her to use the soap pump and hand washing was done. From the corner of my eye I saw Ankit watching all this – very attentively. I had seen the same look when I had taught her to use a fork on a visit to pizza hut.
Ankit had only seen equals amongst kids before he came to India. In Sammamish there was little discrepancy in social or financial standing amongst kids. How strict your parents were was the biggest delimiting factor. Here I have watched him sometimes watch attentively and at other times look away when he encounters children financially different from him. He has mentioned he is more grateful for what he has and once even chided Peeyush for grumbling about having a lousy day. On his way to school, Ankit had seen a little girl – barely six he said – trying to chop wood. For a few days he allowed no grumbling in the house. We had no right to grumble he said.
Sapna is well fed and clothed; she goes to school and speaks English really well. She is a happy child. I am not sure what the implications of my taking her to restaurants and teaching her about things alien to her are going to be. Will it embed in her a want to achieve all that or will she be dissatisfied with the life she has. I am not sure if I should do something more, something less. For now, I try to see her just as Ashvin's friend and I try to treat her as I would another friend of his.
And from the corner of my eye I watch Ankit, attentively, to ensure he stays sensitive and does not let the frequency and commonality of the Sapna's around him numb him.


  1. i think you are doing the right thing, treating her as his friend is what he and she would like, with time things may change or may not, who knows.

  2. Few Indians treat the 'lesser opportunity' kids the way you do. In a way, you are not just empowering the kid Sapna but you are demonstrating compassion in its most meaningful strength to your son Ankit. Am really impressed, hats off to you!

  3. Good show and it seems you have raised your Son well too.