Tuesday, March 18, 2014


As the weeks went by I made lots of weekend trips to the countryside.

One sunny October day I discovered a particularly magical realm on the outskirts of Bogor. Along a bosky country lane I found myself taking photographs of buffalo, fields of tapioca, dark wooden shacks among tall trees, and smiling children carrying huge baskets of mangoes and bananas. There was an aroma of burning wood and goat manure. Some of the houses along the lane were simply grubby slums, full of naked babies and toddlers, but some had decent brick walls, concrete floors, peach-coloured tile roofs and glass windows. The occasional house even had a car parked in the front yard and one mansion, belonging no doubt to a government official, had five cars. Some of the children wore clean, red and white school uniforms while others wore ragged shirts, skirts and shorts, but all of them, at least on the surface, looked fairly healthy.

Not quite all of them. There was a clearly unhealthy child crouched outside a windowless, wooden hut and he cried miserably when I pointed the camera in his direction. He had the head of a five year old but the body looked younger. Although his stomach was enormous, his limbs were rickety and withered as in pictures of starving children in Africa. He was too weak to stand up. For the first time I had met one of the waifs and strays that I was anxious to help, but unfortunately it was a rather an extreme case.

The four year old boy was named Budi. I spoke to his hollow-cheeked mother and gave her money so she could take the child to a doctor. The father, who looked tired and unwell, told me he worked in the mornings as a farm labourer, earning about 60 pence per day for his family of six. One litre of milk cost about 60 pence.

I had encountered the Third World and, naively, thought I had achieved something useful.

Brother John
The Third World


Anonymous said...

Hullo Aang,

Can you pass on my regards to the author of these pieces? One does admire someone who can write simply and well. It sounds easy but it ain't. And all with an almost Papillon-like honesty. Very refreshing.

best etc. etc.

Anon said...

Will do. Many thanks.

- Aangirfan

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