“Whatever you can do, or think you can do, begin it. For boldness has power and courage and genius in it.” – Johann von Goethe
Lent is that time of the year when one looks for occasions and ideas to make Lenten observances more creative and meaningful. In the Asian context, one needs to look no further. Here are some you might consider taking a cue from.
Dhanush Chaffey* was a bright student but had to give up the school during the very first lockdown of Covid-19 (2020). The pandemic and the lockdown proved huge thorns in the side of the family with Dhanush’s father losing his job as a truck driver and taking up just about any menial task that came his way. Even the mother, Asha, juggled domestic chores in people’s homes to be able to feed six mouths.
With the lack of wherewithal to acquire smartphones for online schooling, the only handset in the house was being used by the eldest son of the Chaffeys. The rest of the three sons had to give up their studies.
Dhanush, barely 12 years of age, took it upon himself to help augment his parents’ income by taking to selling tea in the Sion-Dharavi slum of Mumbai, western India, where he lives.
Carrying a heavy flask in his delicate hands and disposable plastic tumblers in a plastic bag strung at his waist, he goes about calling in his thin raspy voice in Hindi—“Chaaaai! Garma-garam chai” (tea, hot tea).
Returning to make more tea, some three or four times until sundown, he makes a fairly tidy sum of about Indian rupees 300 (about US$ 4) a day—hard work for a child surely, what with part of the amount going towards the payment of the monthly rent for the shanty the family lived in.
When an official of local municipal corporation approached the boy’s father asking whether she could help set up a tea-stall at the junction for his son, she got a negative reply.
As to the reason, the father blurted out “Kyon ki mera beta ‘pradhan mantri’ nahi bannaa chahataa hai” (“Because my son does not want to become prime minister”). “I want to try and save some money to buy a smartphone so that I can get back to my online schooling” added Dhanush.
Moved by what she was hearing with her ears, the municipal official—on conditions of anonymity—instantly arranged for a smartphone for him at her own cost and also got him reconnected with his school by arranging for the payment of the fees pending.
Dhanush thus started going about selling tea from 3 pm to 6 pm, just to continue supplementing the family’s income, i.e. after completing his school assignments for the day.
Emboldened by the turn of events, and inspired by Clara-madam whose home was the last that the mother worked at every day before returning home, Asha thought of reviving her hand-embroidery hobby.
Clara, a seamstress by profession, ran a tailoring-cum-embroidery class at home in her fifth-floor apartment in a high-rise not far from the Chaffey hutment.
Impressed by what she saw on asking Asha to demonstrate her skill, Clara lost no time in offering her additional training and income for a two-hour daily stint in embroidery from 3 to 5 pm.
Slowly but surely, the fortunes of the pandemic-cum-lockdown stricken family began to look up, ensuring that the genuinely ardent wish of the parents to see all their four sons educated and moving out of the slum were back on track.
Truly, God’s ways are not our ways, for it is not the government but God Himself who helps those who help themselves, though not without a little help from an official of Municipal Corporation, a bit of a push from a small-time entrepreneur. And it is certainly not without personal initiative.
Is there anywhere around us a Dhanush or an Asha hoping to have a better Easter this year? Know of any Flloyd who could do with active support for his once flourishing catering business that is struggling to resurrect itself post-Covid-19?
A grace-filled Lent 2022 to all!
*All names changed for reasons of privacy.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.