You are currently viewing How a Difference in Culture changes the Definition of being poor – 14 Jun 13

How a Difference in Culture changes the Definition of being poor – 14 Jun 13

In the past days I compared the needs that children have in the west, according to a study by UNICEF, with the needs of children in India. There are still a few points left:

12. Two pairs of properly fitting shoes (including at least one pair of all-weather shoes)

This is a very important factor and I believe it should really not be underestimated how much this costs the parents. Children’s feet grow quickly and they regularly need new shoes so that they can walk and jump and run properly.

Fortunately the weather in our area in India is so mild that you can run around without shoes most of the year, too, but with the development of streets and the pollution of the whole town it is not anymore so easy or hygienically advisable as it was when I was a child. We provide the children of our school the black school shoes that go with the school uniform and we often see them using those shoes in their free time, too, as they don’t have any other pair. In summer, they obviously prefer taking them off, though. Then there are light and very cheap flip-flops with which the size is quite flexible – so you will see children in much too big and much too small shoes, too. While I would reduce the number to one pair of shoes, I think it is in India, too, a sign of poverty if you really have no pair of shoes at all.

13. The opportunity, from time to time, to invite friends home to play and eat

This is another point where I can tell you that the big majority of Indian children seem to be less poor than children in the rich countries the study was made for. In India, even the poorest of the poor invite their friends over to their home. The children of our school go to each other’s homes regularly and they also eat there. It might be a question of the Indian hospitality that you would offer from what you have, however little that may be, and share it with the ones who are there. Another aspect could be that the poor western parents may be more ashamed of their poverty than the usual Indian family, simply for the fact that there are a lot of poor people in India.

14. The opportunity to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, name days, religious events, etc.

I have met a lot of people who were totally shocked when they heard that most children who come to our school don’t know when their birthday is. Their parents don’t know either, because it is simply not important to them. This is partly due to culture but partly because they cannot afford to do anything special on that day.

Religious events however are very important and everybody, no matter how poor, will celebrate Diwali for example. If they even only light an oil lamp in their own home, make a small pooja and pray for some more financial luck in the next year, they will definitely do a celebration.

I am not too sure about the quality of this criterion because such celebrations can range from a cheap and simple home celebration to super expensive with lots of gifts and a big party. Isn’t a celebration what it is because there is a special atmosphere in the air? Or because the family gets together? Couldn’t that be achieved without money, too?

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