Slumdog–More Messing With the Kids

You know, you can say it was just a joke– you just tapped them, but you forgot you were wearing brass knuckles. And there they are, lying on the ground, screaming that you broke something.

That’s the evil of power disparity. You think you mean well, but the consequences are out of your control.

Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire, tried to do it right. He is still sponsoring donations to the poor children of Mumbai. But when he recruited two lovely, charismatic children to act in his movie, to give it heart and verisimilitude, he did not consider that he might be taking away more than he gave.

A child-actor’s wages are a cup of water on the Sahara sands when applied to one of Earth’s great desperate slums. A cup of water attracts desperate people and not-so-desperate profiteers. I don’t trust the motives of the British tabloid news reporters who enticed Rubina Ali’s father into going for this sting…

MUMBAI — Indian police in Mumbai are probing accusations that the father of a child star of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire tried to sell his daughter for 200,000 pounds.

The mother of 9-year-old Rubina Ali protested after a sting operation by a British tabloid alleged her father tried to sell her.

This has ripped up Rubina’s family…

Meanwhile, authorities in Mumbai have recorded the statements of Rafiq Qureshi; his “Slumdog” daughter, Rubina Ali; and his former wife, Khurshida Begum, senior police inspector Prakash Salunke told CNN.

Qureshi has denied allegations made in Britain’s News of the World that he tried to sell 9-year-old Rubina for £200,000 ($290,000), Salunke said. In her statement, the child-actor favored her father, according to the police.

Qureshi’s former wife, whom he divorced several years ago, endorsed the allegations leveled against him by the British newspaper.

Squalor for entertainment has a familiar ring to anyone who watches American daytime TV. There are scores of innocent American children who will some day be confronted with a video of their father denying his paternity until the DNA test comes through on camera. Public hanging is out of fashion, but there are substitutes. The blood is real.

Now we get to see a poor Indian father exposed as a person who would sell his daughter. Rubina is nine years old. This will follow her all her life. I hope she writes a book some day, ‘Director Dearest’. I wonder if Danny Boyle would have found his own gift if a rich foreigner had intruded on his childhood this way. Rubina Ali has to deal with her mother, her father, and a whole lot of money. I hope there is a very good social worker involved in this. And a trustworthy financial adviser is sorely needed.

The poor of India are watching. If any harm comes to these children it will be hell to pay. There are too many bereaved parents, too many parents of the disappeared.

Rosa Parks was not young, not uneducated, not taken by surprise. She trained all her life to be ready for that day on the bus. Rubina Ali is nine years on this earth. She is for the moment distinguished among the six billion of us. May the spirit of Rosa Parks, and the spirit of Rosa’s teacher, the great soul, Gandhi, raise their sheltering wings over this child.

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