Get Tough!


The phrase “Put your big girl/big boy panties/undies on and get over it!” has come out of my mouth so many times in the last two weeks but I’ve still been a weenie.  After the boda incident, I didn’t leave the house for four days.  I just kind of moped around and pouted.

Yesterday, I went out to the market and snagged 30 yards of fabric for a village project, 30 spools of embroidery thread and put on my big girl panties, finally getting over it.  Today I sat in the living room after making sweet iced tea for the ladies, cutting a boat load of pattern pieces and thought to myself what a complete and utter dissapointment I have been for five days.  I mean, hiding in my house?  I know how to be smart on the streets, I should’ve never let the boda incident happen in the first place but I let my guard down.

So I thought about one day last winter when one of my besties and I were driving around the city listening to some of his new songs, singing and him talking about how sometimes his music just screams to him, ‘get tough!’  Today I decided, “Jessica, it’s time.  It’s time to Get Tough!”  And then, after not writing for two days either in my self-imposed funk, I found this photo.

This is Akshay (Cute little brat with the biscuits on the right) and Jasbeersingh (left.)  They are from the Waghri tribe in Yerwoda, Pune, India.  Basically, they were born and therefore are criminals and untouchables.  Actually, I wouldn’t even say that…when Britain left India and India rewrote it’s regulations and tribal classifications, they simply decided the Waghri tribe doesn’t even exist and left them off the roster of citizens.  They hang in this balance of being denied access to anything, jobs, education, healthcare, housing.  They live in a slum where 300,000 people share 2 toilets and they are some tough cookies.  Naughty by nature (and no, not the “Hip Hop Hooray” kind), cute as buttons, sweet as pie, completely headache inducing.

These two were in my upper kindergarten class at the education center and I finally realized Akshay was really just naughty for attention, if you let him sit next to you or hold your hand he would do everything top notch.  He was insanely smart and would finish his work at the top of the class before ruining his page with scribbles out of spite and boredom.  Usually my days would be like, “Akshay, stop.” “Akshay, don’t hit.” “Akshay, sit down.” “Akshay, don’t hit.” And that is how I taught him English because he became really good at mocking me before he would run up and give me a huge hug.

Jasbeer, poor Jasbeer.  He just didn’t get it.  He would try and try and try so hard.  So many times I would have to literally hold his hand to draw letters and he would get so frustrated.  You could see it in his face that all he wanted was to do it and when he thought he couldn’t, he would get mischevious because that’s something he could do.  How do you tell a kid, “You can do it,” when they don’t speak or understand English, they hardly know Hindi yet and speak a regional dialect of Marathi that you are clueless about?  It’s like speaking Spanish and picking up a French brochure.  The letters are the same, you can figure out what words here and there mean but overall, no dice man, no dice.

These two, man, these two.  They really pushed my buttons sometimes but they were two of my favorites.  This shot was taken after class and I said, “Hey boys, Get Tough!”  They knew what that meant, if they started being whiny pants in class, someone took a toy away during play time, someone hit someone or they just weren’t understanding the lesson, I’d tell them, “Get tough!” Somehow, they got it.

Somehow, I need to get it back.

Adventure on!


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