Saturday, August 26, 2006

The beauty of India

An orphan from Triplicane
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India

When I was in Madras (now called Chennai) this past February, I tracked down and took photos of all the street kids my friend Robert in California is helping. Actually, I didn't so much have to track them down as run from them. They got advance notice that the "dancing lady" was coming to town and from then on, I could barely escape them.

I had a few favourites, though, that I did not mind hanging out with. V. Prabhakaran, proprietor of Star Books, and his family were very cool. I especially loved Muniamman, an 80-plus elderly lady, a relative of VP's wife.

V Prabhakaran, though struggling himself like most Indians, manages to find time to help others, like the girl at right. This is a photo of Jennifer, who is essentially (not literally) an orphan.

As you can see, Jennifer is absolutely radiant, bordering on stunning. She has a total innocence that just shines from her.

Jennifer's real dad ran off and left the family. The mother then remarried, to a man who didn't care at all for Jennifer, only for his own kids that he was raising with the mom. They then sent Jennifer to a "home" (read: thinly veiled slave labour) where the girls are not treated or fed well, are worked too hard and are never given decent clothes.

Now, Jennifer is living safely with a good family. V. Prabhakaran and his wife, despite having a one year old son of their own, have taken Jennifer in. She sleeps on the concrete floor in their small 2-room flat in Triplicane. The last I heard, they had tried to start a cloth-selling business for Jennifer and she was learning to cut and sell "piece goods."

A "homely girl"
Often in such a situation, the girl is open to all kinds of exploitation from the hosts (forcing her to do housework; sexual come-ons from men in the family; use your imagination). But I have seen VP's house and family and I trust them.

They are looking for a nice boy to marry her. I think any guy would do well to marry her. Actually, I don't know of anyone who would be good and innocent enough for Jennifer.

Her father was a Christian, so Jennifer got a western name. (The fact that her name is not Indian made it Christian, at least to them. I didn't bother trying to explain that there is no Jennifer in the Bible.)

In Indian matrimonial ads, they describe a girl who likes to stay at home, cook, clean and be a traditional wife as a "homely girl." I wonder if they are using this word to describe Jennifer.

1 comment:

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Robert in California writes:

I never met Jennifer so all the info I got was second hand. Even the
photos they sent of her were so bad, I thought she was plain.

Some of the things in your new article, I did NOT know.
Most interesting!!!