Tragedy in India

Around the world, Muslims are fasting for the month of Ramadan, a particularly grueling time of year for a month of full-day fasts. Last Tuesday, observant Jews--myself included--observed a 25-hour fast to commemorate the tragedies of Jewish history. It was tiring and challenging, and as night fell and the fast ended, I was incredibly grateful for the blessings of a cold glass of water and a toasted bagel. The simple things.

Or not so simple.

In India, food was taking center stage in a tragedy that shatters the heart with every detail that emerges. At least 22 children died in the state of Bihar after eating a school lunch last Tuesday that was reportedly laced with pesticide. Twenty five others remain in the hospital--24 students, plus the cook, who tasted the food after children complained about it. The headmistress of the school fled and hasn't been found yet, while some of the grieving parents buried their children on the school grounds in protest. A week later, the scope and depth of this tragedy still haunts me.

For many of the students, school was their only hot lunch of the day, and India's countrywide school-lunch program has successfully boosted school attendance rates and children's nutrition and health. Police are investigating how the pesticide ended up in those lunches. Heartbreak upon heartbreak.

I don't have any words of deep wisdom here, nor can I offer an insightful analysis to pull this all together. These children were betrayed again and again, when all they wanted was lunch and an education--normalcy, the simple things. Right now, I just grieve, for these children and their families. For the astounding number of children go hungry every day, in our own country and around the world--many of whom rely on school lunches for whatever nutrition they can get.

I feel helpless in the face of such tragedy and grief. I try to teach my children to help those in need and be grateful for what we have, for every sip of water and every bite of food. I won't be telling them about the news from India. It's too much for even an adult to bear.

Image: Map of India via Shutterstock.

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