Friday, July 28, 2006

Arti, the indian princess

This is the interview to Arti, in, an Spanish newspaper, appeared in October 2003. Arti was 12 years then, and lives in Benares. After this interview I had the chance to meet her in Harischandra Ghat. Arti means prayer.

Interview by Ima Sanchís.

She wears a school uniform, white socks and two pony tails with red laces. Arti is a happy and imaginative girl, the first of her class, but her life is not like the rest of the class. With the money she earns selling postcard in the streets of Benares since she is 6 years old, she pays for her school, her books, his older brother fess and cares for all family, 4 brothers and two illiterate parents.
They live in a room without windows, 4 square meter, and sleep over the floor. But Arti wants to go to college, wants to become a doctor, wants to "help all these people who have nothing".
Arti doesn' t want to marry an indian, she says she want to be free and independent.
All this in her world is like pretending to become a princess in our.

I am 12 years old. I was born and live in Benares. I have 4 brothers, from 9 to 1 years old. Mi father is 36 and sells postcards in the street, my mothers is a housewife of 35. I work since I am 6. I don' t know about politics. I believe in reencarnation, that is why I never lie and try to be good to everybody.

- You like your house?
- Yes, I like much.
- As soon as it has four square meters, how dormis?
- In diagonal, my father eases up here, to his side my mother, soon I come and my four brothers. And as it is your house
- To the side of this, my house is very great.
- Vives with your parents, children and cousins?
- No - And you do not feel single?
-. Cuentame as a day in your life passes.
- I rise to 6 in the morning and I am going away next to the Ganges to sell postal. 7 and the average one I enter the school. To 16,30 I return to gats to sell but postal until it grows dark. Then study one hour, game awhile, I have supper and I speak with my friends. To 11 at night I am going away to sleep.
- That the money to house brings, you or your father?
- My father are months that nothing obtains, at the most rupias removes 300 to the month. I of average gain 800 rupias to the month.
- How you imagine your life in the future? - I want to be doctor, to help the people who need it, and in special, to all those that do not have legs or arms, nor money to buy medicines.
- And so that you want to do that?
- Because I see by the street too much people whom suffers and that needs aid. I believe that if I help them I help my same one, is good karma for me, you understand?
- Ves possible to go to the university?
- I will try It, costs between 3,000 and 4,000 rupias to the month. I already know that when is greater I cannot sell postal by the street because nobody will buy to me. I have glided to give classes of hindi to foreigners.
- You would like to marry you?
- No, I want to be doctor and to be free. If you marry to you no longer it allows you to leave house. Your husband says everything to you what you must do. Not even you have permission to speak with that you want.
- You deal with many western ones, what you think of them?
- The western ones are like the Indians, want to make money; what happens is that desire there much more that here. We are not inferior to the western ones, but we needed part its money to survive. Even so, I believe that the money is due to win honestly.
- To what you talk about?
- I refuse to work with the stores that offer money to take to me to the tourists. I refuse because that seems to me dishonest. I prefer to have a treatment of equal to equal and for that he is essential not to deceive the other.
- I understand.
- I buy the postal and must remove a benefit to them, but I do not put price, always I say to them: dame a happy money, the one that to you you makes happy will make me happy.
- And if they give you less than what you invested?
- I smile.
- Of what you speak with the foreigners?
- I speak of the greed, the money and kindness. I notice to them of so many strange Indians that the only thing whom they love it is to remove money to them.
- How you know if people are good or bad?
- Wendish postal from the six years. When I approach I see how they react: some or watch to me, others smile, others ask and they touch to me and I hate that they touch to me. If sights to the eyes to people, you know.
- You would marry with a western one?
- I have thought It, before said that no, but now I say that yes. I have realized that if I marry with a western one and I am going away to live to the foreigner I will be able to maintain to my family without losing the freedom.
- That will depend on that you choose.
- It is certain, but I can speak the sufficient thing with a western one to give account me of how she is. Nevertheless, with the Indians I cannot nor speak, our culture is thus. But I do not want to depend on any husband, nor want that he is the one that helps my family, is I the one who is going to continue becoming position of my family and for it I must and is going to work.
- What think of you your friends and friends?
- They say that I am crazy. My friends of rich families…
- Tienes rich friends?
- Yes, I am the poorest girl of my school. Those boys, the rich ones, do not understand that I am going to sell postal. Sometimes they accompany to me as if outside a game. And all are very jealous of the good that I speak English.
- In India those are the parents that decide with whom the daughters marry.
- My mother wants that marries to me and I have convinced it that she lets to me choose me. As condition demands to me that he is a good boy and that is not of very black skin, because the people of dark skin have it very difficult.
- And you what you say to him to your mother?
- If encounter a clean heart, although it is covered of a dark skin, I marry with him. To my father it does not like that I speak with Indian children because that creates commitments and bonds, worse I entrust myself in my own intuition.
- You bathe every day in the Ganges?
- A time I saw the corpse of an pregnant woman floating, is not rare that in the Ganges river they appear bodies floating but this one made an impression to me because the woman was watching to me: I had the sensation of which it meant something to me. I was three days ill. I have not returned to bathe to me in the Ganges since then. -
What you think of the death?
- That all we must ourselves die. Only they give to fear the ghosts and story me histories on them in exchange for currencies.
- Where you learned to count histories?
- Reading cómics. But histories that I more like to tell are on friendship.

Up to here the interview.

Arti reflects the reality so common in India of children's labour. Many western ones cannot think that the children are working when they approach them. It's hard but necessary to maintain the family, or to help at least.

Arti explains how the relations between sexes, even from childhood, are badly seen, and how they create commitments. The child marriage is present still between families of very humble extraction, more in towns and villages than in great cities.

The university is reserved for a very elitist group, as she counts. 3.000 or 4,000 rupias is a monthly wage in many houses. Although many chaste losses have been able to leave that wheel thanks to the governmental scholarships, to reserve seats to more underprivileged people economically. These months there has been much tension indeed by that subject. The high class have reacted indignant before the ascent of the quota of seats for the university for the chaste losses. The middle-class and high I calculate that it does not exceed 30% in India…

But Arti is a girl with something special, no doubt. I hope that she does great in life.

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