Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chorus: We are family!

U & I visited a group that works with street children today. How trite this sounds even as I write it. The first time we’d come here, last week, we met this man in his fifties perhaps, who welcomed us immediately. Very refreshingly different from the other bureaucratic place we had just been to, I thought. There wasn’t a hint of suspicion as he regarded us. Perhaps there should have been. Perhaps he trusted us merely because we looked like him. Middle-class, and beguilingly safe.

I mean, nobody likes to meet people from the media. Least of all if they aren't getting anything out of it [tangibly], and more so when the intruders are a couple of unreliable-looking self-professed filmmakers.

[Fact: All filmmakers, self-professed or otherwise wear an opportunistic, inherently unreliable gleam in their eyes. It’s embossed on their peepers when they pass out of film/communication-school – one of those secret rites-of-passage that no one ever talks about. It comes with a complex-glance-decoding, how-to crash course on recognising other such predators, complete with a strict territorial rulebook.]

But this man was positively opening his arms out to us, ready to take us into his all-embracing-NGO-bosom.

Anyway, sense-of-relief soon changed to is-this-guy-for-real? He called a colleague and said, “we have a couple of friends here, who’d like to visit our centre”, as he smiled at us disarmingly.

"Friends"!!? Hmm. Really no. Please don’t. At least ask us what fucked-up notions we probably have about children on the street, their lives, and what we plan to do with what we learn from you.

Ask us something.

But he didn’t. He chose to trust us.

Cut to today. There were four more such willing angels ranging from ages 30 to 70, with varying perspectives on children, streets, life and sex, who chatted with us happily for over two hours. Print outs were shot off, copies distributed, and experiences over the last two decades offered up as easily, warmly and plentifully as the coffee.

All of them spoke about trust – winning it from the children and giving it back, not only to the children but also to all others who showed the inclination to be part of that world.

But is it really that simple?

The discomfort won’t go away. This utopian camaraderie doesn’t sit well in my head. I still don’t feel deserving of that trust. It isn’t like I intend abusing it, but what if I had? What if I do, unintentionally? Is it enough merely to have ‘good’ intentions?

More importantly, within what parameters does one qualify ‘good’? Over the last few years, experience [of an admittedly limited kind] has taught me that my sense of normal, family, friends, respect, good, dignity and other such defining ideas, is nothing but a narrow, blinkered, graspable way of constructing a very small petty kind of reality.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with it. We live with limited intellects. It is inevitable. But then does it give me the license to step into another space, unquestioned and unconditionally accepted, when I’m not sure I’d be able to return the favour?


n.g. said...

its all about trial and error, men. jon bon jovi said 'i opened up my heart and all i did was bleed'. but if one decides to never open up the heart for fear of bleeding, hows the heart going to function? nothing is simple, everything is trust. and usually it finds itself manifested in the right people.

H said...

NG, umm. sure. but. the way to hell is paved with good intentions na? [and yes you may shoot me for this stinky bit of cliche]. I am so so so wary of this business of doing good. Most of us go at it with the vigour of the earliest missionaries. there's a term for it... white man's burden. Hypocrisy is a big fall out of 'good intentions'.

n.g. said...

what to do men, cant help it men. just do what you gotta do and drink that whisky, thats all.

H said...

ya men. that only.

Ben Ditty said...

Oh, I was never much for whiskey. Give me a beer or a nice bloody :)