Photo of the Day: Seeing People, Seeing Policy

At the risk of meeting the coal industry’s standard of child porn, here is a family that was begging on the street by my office. There are an estimated 26 million homeless in India, of which 3 million are literally on the street. The rest have some sort of roof over their heads, barely.

Gangs that kidnap, buy, and maim children are not the stuff of Slumdog Millionaire storytelling, so the politics of giving to beggars is agonizing. Anyone who has anything dismissive to say about liberal guilt can bite me. I’m guilty and proud. That is to say, I’m not guilty about feeling a duty to use the resources that our unequal world has bestowed upon me in a responsible way.

So: beggars. On the one hand, the thought that I would indirectly reward someone for successfully stealing a child makes me sick. On the other, there is a hungry human being standing in front of me. To not give for the greater good is to make their hunger a tool of my social policy.

The “right” answer is a) the most responsible thing to do is to give to organizations, and b) there are no right answers.


Photo of the Day: Little Kids, Big Loads

There were a whole lot of kids hauling stuff on my street today.

They seemed a lot better-natured about their chores than I was when it was my turn to mow the lawn.

I think some of it probably crossed the line into child labor, which is illegal.

There are an estimated 200,000 kids in Bangalore working anyway. The government has a program to “rescue” working kids and put them in school. The programs are residential, because otherwise the kids don’t make it to class much.

Funny, that.


Photo of the Day: Play

This two-year-old lives with his family on the ground floor of an under-construction building around the corner from my apartment, between the chandelier shop and the mosque. Construction workers usually live in the projects they are building; of the many hazards of growing up in a construction zone is occasional building collapse. Last fall, three children (13, 7, and 11 months) survived the collapse of an under-construction building that killed two workers only because they were playing next to a pile of cement bags that caught the slabs of the floors above.

Photo of the Day: Sweet Doggie Dreams

Bangalore generates about 1,700 tons of solid waste a day. Household waste is typically piled on the street either loose or in used plastic shopping bags. Trash pickers go through it by hand, pulling out plastic bottles, cardboard, and other reusables or recyclables. Everything left behind is collected each morning by street sweepers with brooms. They load it into pushcarts, cycle-carts, and souped-up rickshaw contraptions, and wheel it to transfer points. Ultimately, lorries haul it to the landfill.

Here, a dog rests on a nearly full sweeper cart, presumably dreaming the sweetest of doggie dreams.

Photo of the Day

A new apartment building is going up on my street, which means that entire families are sifting sand, mixing cement, and carrying loads of bricks on their heads. This boy, who is peering out of the fencing around the property, is probably not old enough to work yet, but I’ve seen kids maybe a year older than him caring for younger siblings as their moms work.