Shannon Bardwell: The silver case

April 3, 2010 9:55:00 PM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


During World War II my dad purchased a small silver case in India. One side has a crude etching of India-Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta, the Taj Mahal on the other side. Dad was well known for buying crafts from neighborhood children; they flocked to our door with their wares. Dad certainly would have purchased a small silver case from a street child. I wonder about that child. 


I know little of India, and yet I know more than I want to know. Like many, I was exposed to the movie, "Slum Dog Millionaire." I didn''t last more than a few minutes because the abuse of small children was so horrific. It darkened my soul for weeks. I try hard to understand how an adult could take a small helpless child, weak and vulnerable, and purposely blind that child to increase his begging appeal. It makes my heart scream. 


Whether the movie was made to be a box office smash (smashing $377 million worldwide) or to depict the global plight of helpless children, I don''t know. I just knew we had to do something; I couldn''t sleep. Sam and I contacted the World Vision organization and asked to sponsor a 7-year-old Indian girl. We figured girls to be the most vulnerable and seven a perfect number. We wanted a girl that was not particularly pretty. Pretty girls are chosen first. We were given Pooja; she has big brown eyes like a fawn and dark wavy hair. Pooja''s birthday is June 7. She''s 7 years old, and she''s pretty.  


Pooja lives near Bijapur, Karnataka State, in south India. There are only 60 families there. Being in a small village Pooja does not beg like a child in a larger city. Even so, she lives in a house of rubbles, mud and bamboo, and there is more often than not little to eat. Her family grows maize and wheat in a drought-prone area. Transportation is by horse and cart, if one can afford to feed a family and a horse. 


For the price of a dinner for two, Pooja gets to go to school and receives food, health care, medicine and clean water. Someone in Pooja''s family has HIV; the implications are frightening. A video showed an AIDS mother praying that her children would die first so they wouldn''t be abandoned.  


Because Pooja has a sponsor, she will go to school. I hope for her a better life. I hope she knows that she matters. I hope she teaches me and my family to appreciate what we have. Even in this time of our own faltering economy, we still have an abundance. We received a picture from Pooja recently; she colored the world and a dove. 


I often talk with Dell technicians from India. We talk about Pooja while we wait for "dial up" service. Ravi warned me to choose a reputable organization. I assured him I had. He thanked me for helping Pooja. I thanked him for helping me with dial up.

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.