If you’ve been to India you’ve seen them–they beg at the train stations, or collect plastic from the side of the road, or sell candy and tissues on the buses. They’re India’s 25 million abandoned children, and the ones you see count themselves lucky. Millions more are worked to death in sweatshops or brothels, or simply left in the wilderness to die.
The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, a new book by Dog’s Eye View Media, explores the struggles of India’s homeless or orphaned children. Author Shelley Seale’s discovery of this human tragedy led her life in a whole new direction, and it is this that gives the book its impetus. Not only do we learn about the struggles of India’s children, and the living saints who dedicate their lives to helping them, but we watch Seale’s personal transformation from a Yuppie into something much more real.
Besides her personal story, two things really set this book apart from the “see the horrible things happening in the Third World” genre. Firstly, it takes a mostly positive spin. While Seale doesn’t flinch from the uglier side of Indian life, she focuses on the children’s resilience and dreams. They don’t come off as poor victims waiting for rich peoples’ help. Her main point is that these kids aren’t in need of handouts, but the basic human right of a childhood.
The second strong point is that the book is well grounded in fact, skillfully interwoven with the narrative so that it never slows down the writing. We learn such nasty tidbits such as that rural doctors give their patients the wrong medicine 50% of the time, or that only one in three rural medical practitioners know how to make rehydration solutions to treat diarrhea, and horrible statistics about child prostitution. All of these are carefully annotated.
The Weight of Silence is part travelogue, part expose, and gripping reading. The fact that this book shows deep respect for India’s people while not ignoring their faults sets this book apart. Even people who have traveled extensively in India will learn a lot.