This small book packs big messages. I have traveled in India a number of times. Street people, beggars, the homeless and sick are no strangers here in the San Francisco area or in the streets of India. I have chatted with homeless people, but have I really “seen” them?
This story is told from in the voice of Valli, a little girl who grew up in a coal mining town and contributed to her family by collecting lumps of coal dropped by the women carrying it out of the mine in baskets on their heads. She eats the leftovers from her brother’s plate. She sleeps in a shack with her “mother, father and many siblings.” She is terrified of the “monsters” who live on the other side of the railroad tracks, the lepers missing fingers and bits of noses.
After much abuse, she discovers that she is unrelated to her “family.” She stows away on a coal truck and heads for the bright lights and big city of Kolkata (Calcutta). She is homeless and on her own, but she decides to keep her good humor and gives what she “borrows” to people less fortunate than herself.
If you believe in Karma, or “what goes around, comes around,” her turn finally comes.