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For many people, life is something that is often taken for granted. Their day-to-day lives go by pretty smoothly, with the occasional complications and setbacks. I am sorry to say that I, like masses of others, once treated life in this very manner. I didn’t realize that for millions of people, the simple act of existing is a constant struggle. I was also ignorant of the fact that the reason that many innocent people are burdened with poverty and other tragedies is because of the greed of others.

It started when I was ten years old. Different emotions overcame me as I stepped from the crowded airport into the first-class section of the cool and air-conditioned airplane. As I settled into my seat at the back of the plane, I thought about hearing the loving greetings of friends and family that I haven’t seen in more than six years. I also felt a little nervous because I was going by myself and I wasn’t sure how India would be. Despite this, images of some of India’s famous gardens and monuments that I might go to raced across my mind as I waited impatiently for the flight to land.

My delightful musings about my family proved to be true, as I soon found out when the entire family arrived at the airport to pick me up. I had to endure about fifty kisses and hugs in the car, and listened gleefully as my grandma told me about how she prepared all my favorite foods. Everything was going perfectly, until the ride to my grandma’s house. The streets were crowded and narrow, with no traffic lights or any other form of controlling the chaotic roads. What shocked me most however, were the people running on the highway and the beggars constantly tapping our car’s window asking for money. My uncle, who was driving the car, simply drove faster when a beggar approached us or when a street vendor tried to sell us something. I saw small boys my age dressed in torn and tattered rags and stealing from the vendors out in the open. One boy actually took the whole cart and ran away with the street vendor chasing and threatening after him. I watched in horror as I saw a middle aged woman with two tiny infants sleeping on the sidewalk. My mind was torn in two places. The loving scene going on inside the car with my family and me, and the atrocious cruelties transpiring outside the car was too much to take, and I fumed in silent outrage about things that it seemed I couldn’t do anything about.

We reached my grandmother’s house and I pushed the scenes I had seen out of my mind. For the next few days, I felt like a princess. If I were hungry, my grandma would rush into the kitchen and come out twenty minutes later with one of my favorite snacks or foods. Whenever I was feeling restless, my uncle would go out and buy me a game. I remember one time when I said I was bored, my uncle bought me an ipod the very same day. Unfortunately for me, those few carefree days ended rather quickly.

About two weeks after I went to India, we went to visit my older cousin, Vaeshnavi, who was in college. She was living in a hostel, which is like a dorm. It was one of the best hostels in Hyderabad - one of the biggest and most famed city in South India. Noting this, I expected a pleasant and cozy room, but what I saw inside surprised me. The “Room” was one large hall with chalk-white walls and 25 wooden beds laid out. There were only two bathrooms for the 25 students. My cousin told me that the food they were given was a hundred times worse than normal cafeteria food. The guards were careless and often fell asleep on their watch. I was even more angered when I came to know how much they paid for the hostel. The owner of the hostel was probably in some grand house living luxuriously with the money he sucked away from college students and their families, I thought. Again, I grew frustrated at myself for not being able to do anything.

In the next few days, I felt as if a salvo of disastrous events were being thrown at me simultaneously. The Indian news channel, TV9, had a knack for filming any calamities, no matter how trivial, occurring anywhere and everywhere. Shootings, rapes, and murders were everyday occurrences. During my visit to India however, there was an almost eerie rise in bomb blasts. One incident in particular is one I will never forget.

A few of my relatives and I were going to see a famous Indian monument- the Charminar. This literally translates into “four towers”. I had done a bit of background reading on the building before I went to India, and I ran the details over in my mind during the short ride. Built in the year 1591 by Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, it is a beautiful symbol of peace and the blending of different races of people. I remembered that the reason that this mosque was built was to honor the elimination of a plague epidemic from Hyderabad. The emperor is said to have prayed for the end of the plague and vowed to build a masjid (Islamic mosque) at the very place he sat praying. His exact words are said to have been, “Oh Allah, bestow unto this city peace and prosperity. Let millions of men of all castes, creeds, and religions make it their abode, like fish in the water.” I looked out of the window and could soon see the four, 160 ft. tall towers looming into view, while the streets became busier and more crowded. We soon arrived and I marveled at the Emperor’s prophetic words. The area was bustling with markets, and hordes of people were everywhere. Tourists are no longer allowed to go inside the Charminar, but only the view of the majestic towers with their elaborate carvings filled my heart with wonder.

I remember the next day very clearly. It was Friday, May 18, and I was watching the news with my grandfather. The words “Breaking News” popped up on the screen in block letters, and reported that a bomb blast set by terrorists occurred during the night in Mecca Masjid, no more than a half a mile away from the Charminar. My uncle had happened to park his car in front of the Masjid last night. I was filled with horror when I realized how narrowly I escaped the bomb. I realized that had I visited a few hours later I might have been killed. The news reporter went on to say that eleven people died while praying, although I knew it was a lie. At least 37 innocent people served as victims to the cruel terrorists. I have never felt more thankful and grateful than on that fateful day.

Over the course of the next few days, I watched the news closely. I soon recognized that about 90% of the things that were going on were related in some way to a person’s or a group of people’s greed for money or power. A new bridge collapsed after a light rainfall on 5 cars. A bit of research proved that the people who designed the bridge lowered the amount of cement in the bridge to save money. A river flooded an entire city because the sandbags weren’t laid out for the whole length of the river. Many other devastating events took place that I thought might otherwise have been easily prevented. I was starting to think that there were no peaceful actions in the world anymore.

Due to my increasing awareness of the world around me, I was a bit surprised when my grandfather told me that it was time for my shubakaaryam. This is basically a coming-of-age celebration, done only for girls when they are of eleven years of age. My grandfather is exceptionally rich, and because of this, my shubakaaryam was very grand. The party was held in my grandparent’s vast backyard. A grand and throne-like, velvet chair was ordered, professional chefs and photographers were hired, and gifts were prepared for the two hundred guests that were invited. A few days before the party, my aunt took me shopping. I came back home with a beautiful sari (a traditional Indian dress), made with pure silk and embroidered with strands of gold. I was also carrying about a hundred thousand dollars in jewelry. The day of the shubakaaryam, I spent two hours getting ready. Fresh flowers were braided into my hair while I was being fitted with gold earrings, multiple pearl and diamond necklaces, a solid gold belt, and ruby and emerald rings. When the party started, I mostly sat on the throne while unknown relatives blessed me wholeheartedly. Family that I didn’t even know I had came and presented me with priceless necklaces and anklets. An overwhelming feeling of appreciation for my family welled up inside me, and I admonished myself for thinking that there was no good in the world.

Two weeks after the shubakaaryam, I found myself on a plane ready to be taken back home to America. I passed the time going over my visit to India in my mind. I couldn’t help wondering how different our society will be if we were all selfless and compassionate, and how many less disasters will occur. Suddenly I realized that I was a different person now. I had experienced a small part of the reality in the world we live in. I now knew that there is both cruelty and harmony around the globe, loving and hateful people, and that only mankind can determine the fate of mankind. I have a deeper appreciation for my family. I no longer take life for granted as I did before the trip, and even now, each day I am thankful for the wonderful life I am living.

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graceh22 said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm
This was such a great story! You really connected it well throughout. It was wonderful!
Literature_DarlingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 1, 2013 at 11:21 am
Great job! I love the word choice and sentence structure! Loved it!
holly1999 said...
Mar. 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm
Wow, I loved this. It's soo true, and I especially like the ending. The description is great and this is very well written. Amazing :)
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