Streets of India

February 11, 2010
Wind blows my hair back, the scooter jerks from the brakes scraping the tires with anticipation. I look ahead of me, yet my peripheral vision sees more. I find myself not wanting to look. To see skeleton dogs haunt the streets in gangs. Watch a middle age woman with a crutch, limping, not even begging for money, but for something to eat.

My heart jerks, I feel like I am suffocating at times. A little boy knocking on people's car windows, begging for money, another boy trying to sell little trinkets to get by for the day. Tarps, so many tarps. Set up on the side of the road, with whole families salvaging what they can. Washing clothes in water that they bathe in and even drink from because they have nothing else. But more, these little boys are my brother's age. These boys have been forced to be men, to survive under harsh conditions, to fend for themselves.

And I look where I am living right now. I take a leap back to the memories of where I did live before this, back in America. I have a home. I have a family. Clean water, clothes and even money.

Money. I have about 200 rupees in my wallet right now. That amount of money is $4. That same amount can feed a whole family here. So when I pass a mother and her child, I want to cry. They tell me not to give money to beggars here because they will only want more and swarm me. Okay. But I am a human being too. I have a heart, I care, I love, I cry, I fear, I laugh, I smile, I desire. The people I pass on the street are human beings as well. Do I ignore my convicting emotions? So much of me wants to ignore what I was told. To slip out at least a 100 rupee bill and hand it to that little boy with that little scratch on his face from playing in the landfill.

I see these faces everyday. Struggle, stamped permanently on their faces, determination to find something more than this. And I ask myself, as a respectable human, can I really walk on? Look straight ahead of myself, look like a greedy bastard who unfortunately has more rupees in her wallet than some have ever had in their lives?

Walking pass them, I stare. The little boy stares right back at me. Then many. They are sticking to my skin, my face, my attire, those irises of theirs. Some curious, some poisonous, some attracted.

I am a foreigner. I have no fear to look back. But the only thing that I can give is a smile. So I smile real big, as my gift to them. I smile in hope that it will suffice. I can't help everybody.But if there is anything I can do, I should. I do what I can, I can't do everything, but I can do something at the very least.

So, if I can pull out a 100 rupee bill and afford to give it to that little boy, should I? Just watch me.


I think what really gets me the most is although they don't have much, they have everything. There are people who are more than content with what they have. They don't have a home, yet some are able to laugh and smile. I feel like I come from a spoiled nation where if we can't get that book or shirt, we complain.

Since I have been here, I have cried. Yes, but I have no shame in it. Crying is natural. I was expecting nothing less of myself. Tears full of sadness, helplessness, but also joy and laughter. It's a balance.

I admit it. This is the biggest challenge I have ever faced in my life, but I have never been more happy. I have moments here when I want to give in. India is a melding pot, full of religions, cultures, ideals, languages, all meshed into one. Working together to be what this nation is. Through unity, they surpass most countries. Is it wrong for me to say that in a way, I feel India has progressed a lot farther than the USA? Who says that we must define a 1st world country because of it's riches? Technology? Wealth? India is rich in culture, diversity, unity. India is more developed to me. It's a powerhouse country that is going to hit everybody hard and knock them down. Brilliant minds have come from India, yet why do some people look at India and the first words that come to some are "Isn't that a third world country?" I want to respond and say "no" because India is no where near that.

Last night I went to see a play with my host parents. The play was all in Gujarati. My host parents were worried that I wouldn't like it because I wouldn't understand it. It was a comedic play. I decided wholeheartedly that I wanted to go along with them, I am here to experience, no? Going to that play was the best decision I had made. We were all laughing. I was laughing just as much as the woman next to me, and just as much as my host parents. I came to the unquestionable conclusion; I am separated from everybody here by language; yet we can still share the same laughter.

"A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from."- Lin Yutang

The pattern in which the world spins is truly a formality. We each have our own personal world and in this world we have a completely different rotation than the person next to us. Getting off the plane and landing here, my world has turned upside down. I am hiking upstream. Learning how to adapt to the environment and the people is like trying to fit an over sized ice cube into a bottle. At first it will not fit at all. That ice cube needs some time to melt away its pride, and mold its knowledge in to that bottle.Right now I’m at the melting and molding phase, but the day I fit into that bottle is the day I will be on top of the mountain and nothing will bring me down.

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Paigey said...
Feb. 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm
This is so beautiful! I've read it many times and get something different out of it each time through. The way you see the world is just breath-taking and I am grateful you shared it with us. Beautiful writing, Dear.
VIIcaso said...
Feb. 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm
very touching. It must be very tough being surrounded by people less fortunate than yourself everyday, knowing that there is so much you and everybody in the world around you can do to help, but we never do. I guess it's times like these when you truly appreciate what privileges you have. Great article.
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