Kolkata Diary. Day Care In The Red Light District


Nadine, Dahn, Me, Kiera, and Hannah with some of the kids we met last night.

The little girl in the green and yellow dress held my hand as I slipped my shoes off and left them in the pile of flip-flops and sandals outside the door of the Daycare Center.

The wall of the small two room brick building had a playful mural painted on it.  It was just painted last year, but already  the colors are faded, covered in layers of dirt and exhaust.

Inside I could feel the dirt beneath my bare feet, the cement floor was no cleaner than the sidewalk.

It was already dark out, and the small narrow rooms were wall to wall with children sitting on the floors.  Some of them were doing homework.  Some of them participating in a class.

The walls inside, painted with a scene from the cartoon Tom and Jerry, were as dirty as the ones outside.  The smell of exhaust from the traffic  filled the room.

“Daycare Center” seems the wrong words to be calling the small rooms.  It’s definitely not what comes to my mind when I think of the words Day Care. 

But that’s just what it is.  A place for children to go when their mothers are working.   A place for them to get an education.  A safe place they can go so they don’t have to worry about being stolen or abused.

And the children are happy to be there.  You can see it in their faces in the way they focus on their work.

Education is an important part of  the Day Care.  Not just learning to read and write and do math, but letting the children and mothers know that there are other possibilities.  That  the children don’t have to go into the sex trade which is what is traditionally expected and accepted.   To try to free the children of this generation from have a the  life of a sex worker.

I look around the small crowed room and I want to clean the floor and  throw down some rugs.  I want to give the walls a fresh coat of paint.  I want to fill the shelves in the corner of the room with books and toys.

But it’s not that simple.  Those are the things that would make me feel better, but not necessarily what the kids need most.

Last year, the Day Care only had one room.  With the help of Dahn and Nadine, who raised money and worked with the people who run the center, this year there’s two rooms.  That means there’s space for twice as many children.  And hope for them that their lives will be better than their mothers.

The thing is, it takes so little American money to make a difference.

The girl in the green and yellow dress made eye contact with me as we left for dinner.  She reached her hand up to me from where she sat on the floor.   Smiling at her, I grabbed hold of  her small hand and held it one more time.

I’m remembering what someone wrote me before I left for India.  About so many people being in need and staying focused.  Right now I feel like I’m anything but focused.  More like scattered, torn and  pulled in so many different directions.



One thought on “Kolkata Diary. Day Care In The Red Light District

  1. This post broke my heart. I look at these beautiful children and wish I could will a safe future for them If only it were that easy. You are doing brave work, Maria.

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