Princes on white horses

Hello, my name is Anita and I have recently been employed by Bodhicitta Foundation as a Tuition Teacher. I am so happy to do this job. I am the first person in my family to pass 12th class in school. My father started driving trucks when he was 11. My mother is a simple village woman who gave up school in year 8 to care for her 4 younger siblings while her mother worked. When I was born my father drank out of desperation and hopelessness and beat my mother. After me there are my brother and younger sister.

I didn’t do that well in my 12th exams because my family didn’t have the money to buy books, but I passed, that was a miracle. My family live in a one room house, 8m x 8m. We also have a cat that we love very much. My family is happy now because my father became spiritual and gave up drinking and has a job as Bodhicitta Foundation’s driver. Both my parents work very hard, but we still only have money for food and sometimes for new clothes.

My mother spends 5 hours a day cooking all the food from scratch, washing all the pots and plates in a bucket and carrying water buckets from the tap where the water comes once a day. She washes all our clothes by hand and has to scrub the floor on her hands and knees because of the pollution and dust that creep into our house from coal fires and diesel fumes.

Now I’m enrolled to study social work. I’m happy with that. I dream of getting a well paid job so I can lift my family out of poverty. At my age my mother was married and pregnant with me to a man who beat her. She had to cover her head when her in-laws came and had no say in family affairs. I am going to be independent. I travel to school on a scooter that Bodhcitta foundation gave me a loan for (there are no buses to my school). I work 2 hours a day with slum children as the tuition teacher. We have 20 children in the class and we also give them protein powder and vitamins and record their weight and health. Some of those children don’t have proper clothes, live under black plastic and can’t read and write. They go to school late because they have to wait to collect water from the communal tap (there is one tap for 100 people) or from the government water tanker and then the teachers beat them because they are late. In India we don’t have even basic things like quality education, health care, electricity and clean water. We fight like dogs for everything, people even have to hold onto the side of the bus from the outside to go to work. When they say we are the second fastest growing economy, I wonder who is growing? It’s certainly not the labourers who are paid $30 per month to build the glass skyscrapers that the ‘new India’ lives in. It’s not their children.

My family left the village because there wasn’t enough land to support all of us, not enough water and my parents dreamed of a better education for us. I was lucky I met Bodhicitta Foundation and got good advice. Now I will help my people and my family and myself. I have hope for the future. I have education, independence and dignity that few girls in my slum have. Some of my school mates are already married. In the beginning they think it’s really exciting to get new saris and new jewellery and go somewhere else, but in the end it’s like a cage, because they are not financially independent, they depend on their husbands and in-laws and can’t leave the house without permission. So many times I see that after a few years and a few kids, a beautiful young girl who entered the house like a queen has become like a haggard slave. Her husband starts drinking because he can’t get a good paying job due to lack of quality education or laziness and then she has to go to work cleaning others pots because that’s all she was trained to do. I think it’s a sin to not make your daughter independent – to indenture her to others as a biological and emotional slave.

Stories tell us of Princes on white horses who will rescue us, or of the faithful Indian wife who will follow her husband through fire to prove her devotion and meekness. But I live in the slum. I don’t see any princes on white horses. I realise I have to be my own prince. My father is a good man who works hard for us. Now my mother is really the boss of the family, but it took a long time for her to have independence. I don’t want that to happen to me. I will get a good job and have a love marriage – I will choose my husband and my life. Thanks to all our friends at Bodhicitta Foundation.

* Names and photos may have been changed for privacy and safety reasons.