Survival without adult supervision: stark reality in rural Bihar

by Sonia Faleiero

10-year-old Meena Devi, right, and her older brother Sunil, 11, outside their hut in Jhanwatola village, Bihar.  Photo: Sonia Faleiro for The New York Times

Meena Devi is unlike any little girl you will ever meet. In many ways, she isn’t even a child. The afternoon we met, she’d cooked lunch for herself and her older brother. “I made dal bhat tarkari,” she said proudly, referring to a local dish of rice, lentils and seasonal vegetables. “But we are out of dal, so really, it was just bhat tarkari.” Meena also washes her family’s dirty clothes and drags her brother off to school every morning.