Thursday, 19 July 2007

A Child Is Born

If you go to the bottom of our land and turn right out of the tiny bamboo gate by the new wooden house, walk a few hundred yards through the sugar cane, mulberry and taro, you’ll come to a tiny house or shack in a grassy clearing. When Cat took me there today, ‘Q Papa’, the man of the house, was gutting a scrawny chicken, a special luxury. They were celebrating the birth of a child, a sister for Q and for Cake.

Q Papa is a taciturn sort of man from the south who does electrics, tiling and most other such jobs for us. He’s willing enough, though he smiles rarely and never says anything much. His wife, a local girl, is a bit taciturn too, a rare enough quality around here.

Then again when you look at their house they don’t really have very much to smile about. It amounts to no more than a few posts, a wooden floor and corrugated roof and not much in the way of walls. With these recent violent storms, they must all get pretty wet inside when it rains.

The baby was serene and admirably white, sleeping on the floor in a mosquito net and Q Mama gazed at her in pride, gaunt and exhausted as I photographed her. No doubt the child howls all night, keeping her parents permanently exhausted as well as sick with worry as to how they’ll get by.

Neither of them has any work to speak of. Q Papa could go away to Bangkok and live in isolation and squalor, sending back perhaps a thousand baht a month, but then how would Q Mama cope with the baby and the two small children of three and four on her own. Something seems to have gone wrong with their family support systems and it looks a desperate situation.

The child is exquisite with perfect, tiny feet but what will happen to her and her little family in the current crisis. What will her future bring and what sort of a life is she going to have after the start she’s just been given?

The house is surrounded by palm trees, the ducks and chickens cackle and the buffaloes gaze balefully, heads down. It’s green and lush and pretty and it’s so easy to be taken in and to see only a romantic idyll. Rural poverty can be so beguilingly beautiful, but poverty this surely is.

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