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Six degrees of separation

I’ve often wondered what that expression means exactly. Does it have to do with handshakes? You know: someone you shake hands with shakes hands with someone else they know (six times) and the sixth person could be the Queen of England or some such thing.

Anyway. That was the phrase that popped into my head when I met Anjali. I was on a photo shoot in a slum in north Delhi, looking for a “poster” girl for the Delhi Marathon: we hope to participate in the event on the first of November, bringing the issue of child survival alive for nearly 14 million Delhiites. She was a natural – posing for the camera and talking to me and my colleagues about her life without hesitation. She was a carbon copy of my cousin Tara! Only much younger of course.

Anjali could very well be Tara. All she lacks is opportunity. The opportunity to go to a school where she wouldn’t be forced to learn by rote and where she’d be recognized for her talents. The opportunity to eat well, everyday, and drink clean water. The opportunity to dress well, and to care about what’s in vogue. The opportunity to go out and about, and freely so. The opportunity to be considered equal to her brothers. The opportunity to get a good job, and to grow into someone she wants to be. That’s six kinds of opportunity. Six degrees of separation. Tara, but for the family into which she was born, could well be Anjali.

Anjali was dropped into a boiling cauldron as a child. Her mother had left her in the care of her older siblings while she worked. Now heartbroken, she won’t give up. She’s spent almost all her earnings on surgery and rehab for Anjali. She’s giving her every chance she can. Will that be enough? Will her mother’s love be all that’s needed to ensure that Anjali can become like Tara, a twenty-something student pursuing a career in management?

Ours is definitely the generation of Indians who will scramble to the top. But, will we do it by trampling all over the likes Anjali? Or will we stop and decide not to go on until we can take her along with us? Okay let me break that down a little: What can I do to make sure Anjali becomes Tara? I think I’ll take some great picutures of her.  I’ll shoot her so good, that these same questions pop into all the marathon runners’ minds in November. Those runners have got drive. They will be running for their city. They are bound to see that they must narrow those degrees of separation between themselves and Anjali.

Click, Click. That’s Anjali. Smiling bright, despite her story.

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