Chelsea, our Program Director for Africa & Asia, shares a personal story from her blog that gives us insight into the struggles families face in India. Her and her husband met Deepak, a father of three, who drives a taxi in Mumbai to provide for his family and their future. His story is sure to humble and inspire.
Though not commonly known, more than 80% of children in orphanages in India have a family. Though this may be a single mother, grandparent, or aunt, it's not rare that the children have both a mother and father. This most likely will come as a shock to you, as it did to me when I first started working for the cause of vulnerable children in India.
I would like you to meet a wonderful man, Deepak, who is a father, a taxi driver and a dreamer. A man who has faced trials I would wish on no one and a man who once put his son in an orphanage.
We met Deepak on one of our many taxi rides. Naturally, as we climbed into the taxi at the end of the night, my husband began his normal routine. He always engages our drivers in conversation, getting to know them and looking for any opportunity to encourage and uplift them. That was until he noticed this driver’s hands. Even I gasped when I saw them. You could tell they had been burnt, and badly. His skin had melted and now it looked more like a patchwork quilt than natural skin. I winced, knowing how incredibly painful it must have been. But then his story began, and my heart sank further.
Though my husband and he conversed back and forth in Hindi, I caught enough of what he was saying. When we reached home, I was filled in with the details as I will share with you now.
Deepak was happily married and expecting his first baby. It was a dream come true for any newly married couple. That was until his wife, Priya, began to have complications. Unsure of why she was in pain, she managed to get through the birth and a son was delivered. After the birth, she was never the same. She struggled with infections, pain, and the doctor’s confusion was no help. The bills began to pile up and Priya knew she was becoming a burden for her family. She had given her husband the best gift, a baby, but now felt as though she was stealing everything away from both of them. In hopelessness and desperation, Priya poured kerosene over her head and in the only way she knew how she killed herself. She lit a match and waited for the horror to be over. Deepak was nearing his home when he heard the screams. In a sudden fit of worry, he rushed into the home only to see his wife’s body aflame. In desperation, he tried to save her but the kerosine was no match for his efforts. He lost his wife Priya, and now perhaps his arms too.
His right forearm and bicep were completely melted together, making his job as a taxi driver impossible to do. Not to mention that both his hands had been clenched together from the pain and were now completely sealed. His family told him he was useless and dropped him off at a low-income hospital where he received torture not care.
Though he had lost much, he had not lost his son, and his desire to live was for his son's future. He made his way to the city to seek proper treatment. This, he was able to secure at a hospital in Mumbai, and thus Mumbai became home. The surgeon was able to break apart his forearm skin from his bicep, freeing him to the use of two arms again. The surgeon later was able to break free each finger - though not perfectly - to give Deepak the use of hands as well. Deepak was thrilled and relieved that he could still work and got back to driving as soon as he was able. Even so, Deepak put his son in an orphanage because was told that they could take better care of his son than he could. After his son begged to come home and contracted TB, Deepak brought him home and vowed to never send him to a child care institution again. Children need families. They need their families.
In awe, my husband went on to ask him what his future plans are. Deepak laid out his carefully thought out plan. He had since remarried and now had 3 total children. For now, he was driving for an agency and listed under Uber. He received 20 rupees from every “job” he did, and then a small monthly salary (NOTE: each job is 100-500 rupees, so his cut is very small). This totaled 12,000 rupees or about $200/month. He drove 10-14 hours a day. Deepak makes $1.96/hour, and for all things considered - is doing very well. His plan, however, is to save up enough money to put down a deposit on a car contracted straight from Uber. He needs 27,000 rupees (almost $500) to do so. If he’s able to do that, he will make 80,000 rupees a month ($1,230) of which half will go towards a car payment, and half will go to his pocket. After 3 years of this, he will have paid off the car and be able to keep the entire income. His dream is to send his sons to college and help them have a better life than he did.
Deepak's story is a success story. It's a success because Deepak is working hard to keep his family together and to give his son a future. We could look at this situation and determine the best help is to take Deepak's son into institutional care, teach him English and make sure he gets three square meals a day. We could look at Deepak's disability and poverty and determine that we know better, that we can do better. Deepak is a success story because he chose family over easy.
Thanks to our wonderful community of friends and supporters, we've been able to bless Deepak with the second half of his deposit. His car will be ready for him in 15 days, and he will soon be making almost 4x his salary, which enables him to send his son to a good school and continue caring for his family. Often solutions are not as they seem. Who knew that pouring into this father in such a minimal way could have such a lasting and impactful effect.
Would you keep Deepak and his family in your prayers? Would you praise God for a united and secure family, and these beautiful smiles?