Tell me I don’t exist…

In the mid 1800’s the British rule of India declared certain tribes to be criminal despite individual action.

With the reprieve of British command, these Indian tribes were brought back to society….or so the government will tell you.  The people will tell you otherwise.  They aren’t supported, they aren’t acknowledged, they have no birth certificates, no access to aid, no right to homes…no right to live.  Actually, there is no record of certain tribes, as if they were wiped out of civilization with a giant pink eraser.

Living in a slum is their only option and all they know.  The slum has one, maybe two toilets…in the entire slum. There are no showers, running water consists of taps sporadically spread through various alleys in between buildings.  The houses are constructed of makeshift materials and extended families cram into one room.  Often, the children sleep outside for only a few hours before going to work, school and more often than not, to the streets to try and support their family.

Simply because of a criminal label placed onto them in years that no one can physically recall, they are typecast for life.  They are still viewed as criminals, they are considered untrustworthy.  You don’t speak to them, you don’t acknowledge them, you don’t help them.

These are the Waghri’s.  These are the inhabitants of Yerwada, Pune where I spend my weekdays.  These are the innocent children that beg me to sing ABC’s with them.  These are the children who climb into my lap and wait in line to be able to play catch with me.  These are the snotty noses, the torn clothes, the bare feet, the skinned knees, the muddy faces that I have grown to love.

Look at my face and tell me I don’t exist…

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