This article was originally published in the May 2018 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Eight-year-old Ayan thrashed and yanked violently against the chains his mother restrained him with.
But it was futile. He couldn’t free himself from the chains that kept him inside the run-down shed made of asbestos sheets where his family squatted among 50,000 others in Bangalore, India.
Ayan's Bangalore slum.
"Little Pakistan" Slum in Bangalore, India.
A snapshot of what life is like for families living in this slum.
His dull, dark eyes may as well have shot darts at his mother’s back. His mother, Bibijaan, deliberately kept her back toward Ayan as she readied herself to leave. She couldn’t look at him. Seeing her son like this was too painful.
Tears of despair and desperation filled Bibijaan’s eyes. She didn’t know what else to do. She had nowhere else to turn.
During the hours she had thought Ayan was at school, instead, he found odd jobs and survived the day with the few coins he earned.
Ayan refused to return to his Islaamic school, where he had suffered repeated beatings. It had been the same at the government school he attended before the Islaamic school.
Ayan’s behavior became increasingly violent and destructive. She didn’t know what to do with him, so his mother had chained him inside their shack.
Bibijaan fought back the hot tears that lined her eyes and threatened to spew over as she ducked through the low doorway.
Outside on the narrow path lined with the makeshift sheds, shacks and lean-tos of her neighbors, Bibijaan squinted as her eyes adjusted to the intensity of the Bangalore sun.
She twisted and turned her way along the narrow paths and corridors through the informal settlement called “Little Pakistan” by many.
As she commuted to her employment as a domestic helper, she passed the iron gate in front of the building where she’d learned to sew.
Taru teaches the local women to sew, providing them with some income.
Taru teaches slum children about Jesus through a VBS program in the same facility where Deepam School is held.
Bibijaan dreamt of opening her own tailoring business to support her family. But that dream seemed long-gone, now.
For months she’d been saving to buy a sewing machine, but her meager income didn't even meet the needs of Ayan and his older sister. Her husband worked as a cook in a small, roadside hotel. But, like most of the men of Little Pakistan, he drank away most of his paychecks.
Then she remembered something. Taru, the woman who had taught her to sew, also had a small school. She’d seen the kids leaving on her way to her sewing lessons.
With a spring in her step, she headed over to the gate.
ITMI’s Taru and David Kumar started Deepam School to help the children in the Muslim slum where they minister by preparing them for grade school. Deepam simply means “the lamp.”
Most of the other 31 children at Deepam school are between 3-5 years of age. The school meets in a small facility where Taru and David also teach women to sew for income and conduct most of their outreaches.
David and Taru Kumar with some Deepam students celebrating their last day of school in one of the small school rooms.
Many of the children in the slum were starting grade school never having held a pencil or seen a written letter, and struggled to keep up.
“In school they used to beat me so much, but I am happy here because you love us so much,” Ayan said to Taru, after a few weeks at Deepam.
Every day, Ayan readies himself and comes to school on his own. He even says he likes his homework, which he brings completed each day.
“I like to study...only in this school,” he says. He also enjoys the extra activities and Bible stories. Ayan is friendly and loves to play with the other children.
Ayan focusing and flourishing at Deepam school.
At first, Taru worried Ayan wouldn’t go home when the school dismissed after lunch. But now, Ayan willingly goes home after school.
Ayan’s parents are relieved and overjoyed as they continue to see positive changes in him.
David and Taru have made similar exceptions and taken older children who need behavioral corrections. Last year, they helped another eight-year-old boy recover behaviorally. With their guidance, he is now doing well in his grade school.
Deepam really isn’t set up for children six and older, but the Kumars would love to be able to expand their ministry to include grade school children.
“We wish we had a program for such children to grow in life,” David shares.
Their current facility is the physically limiting factor. It restricts the school to 35 children.
If letting children from Muslim families hear about the love Jesus has for them and be trained to follow Him is a passion you share with David and Taru, we’d love to put you in touch.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.