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India Through Newly Opened Eyes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     As we made the descent to the airport, my stomach flipped in anticipation. After collecting our luggage, we were met by our relatives. I bounded into the car, not thinking about anything but seeing my cousins. All the way to their house, my face was plastered to the window, seeing the sights at night. Below my vision, unnoticed, slept people on the street.

The next day, tropical humidity weighed heavily on everyone, along with intense sunlight. I strolled outside, marveling at the beauty of the country, despite the weather. I was stupefied at the incredible exotic life running free: monkeys sat in trees, parrots squawked, buffalo lumbered about the road sides, and huge crows fought over food. Palm trees were eveywhere and teenagers climbed them to pluck coconuts. I had never seen such scenes, and I thought they were hilarious, yet wondrous.

Outside my cousins' house, maids and workers labored in the heat, but I returned to the comfort of the cool air inside. Later, when the sun wasn't so intent on crisping everyone, we set out for the biggest toy store around. It had the architecture of a castle and was the size of a mall. Several stories high, all the shelves were full of toys!

That day, however, I noticed the people I had not seen before, on the streets. Dirty, covered in rags, silhouettes of bones harshly apparent, they begged passers-by for money. The roads were filthy and nauseating to walk on. The wretched beggars had no shoes and neither did their malnourished children. I was almost repulsed by their appearance. At seven years old, I had never experienced this cruel reality. Poverty of this magnitude was suddenly hurled at my vulnerable innocence. When I had been preoccupied with my excitement, it had not fazed me, but now it hit me like a punch to the gut. I pictured myself in the beggars' situation and have not felt sadness that infinite since.

We arrived at the toy store, finally. The poor stood outside, begging, while the rich strolled by, willingly and blissfully ignorant of their presence. The skinny, dirty children watched their rich peers and tears emerged. I was one of those entering the store, so I was on the receiving end of dozens of stares of longing. Inside, I tried to absorb the sight of the lavish toy store. I wanted all the toys. There were miniature boats with motors to drive them through a small pool, and little robots walking around that shot plastic missiles at stacks of toy soldiers.

No matter how intriguing the toys, my mind kept wandering to all the children outside. I was torn apart, disgusted with the world. How could so many poor people be ignored? I was idealistic, wondering if I could buy a bunch of toys for the kids outside. But I knew what everyone's reaction would be: "It's sad, but that's how life is. Some of them might spend money for alcohol." The the stereotype of beggars being drunks, however, could not describe all of them.

My relatives offered to get me any toy I chose, but I could not decide, and did not want to, either. I just wanted to leave and watch TV, get away from the world and from my mind. Yet I succumbed to their loving offer without telling them about my idea of getting toys for the kids outside. I was happy with the toy I got, but at the same time appalled with my joy, more so when I left the store. I wanted to hide myself, or at least the toy, from the stares of all those children.

I wanted to give them something, but had nothing. No one let me near them, and a part of me wanted no more than to stay away; my own mixed feelings prevented me from doing anything. I still wonder what I could have given them. All I wanted was to help them, yet my own revulsion kept me away.

I want to go back to India some day. I hear it has improved. I certainly hope it has. From my whole trip, that feeling at the toy store is the foremost thing that stays with me to this day. That feeling now drives me to reach success. I want to become a doctor to help the sick, heal the wounded and donate to charity. Anything I can do to help people, I will. But until I go back to India and buy clothes, a meal and a toy for a poor child, I probably will never be satisfied.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the September 2004 Teen Ink Travel Contest.






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radatoowee said...
Feb. 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm
much swag tip top ayy
 
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