It was an experience that transformed my life. I was a happy girl. I had everything, but I didn’t know it. My life was like a routine, school, summer, school, summer, nothing much to it. Not to say that there weren’t those occasional twists of enjoyment, but a miserable thing would soon come to balance it off.
In December of 2011 that all changed. My parents, my three brothers, and I, stepped off the plane from New York into a new world, India. India was like no other place I had seen before. It was a boiling, bubbling country filled with a rainbow of complete chaos. Crossing the street became its own adventure: bicycles rushed by, dragging carts filled with all sorts of different foods and spices that I had never seen before. People ran by rushing to get to wherever they had to go. Cars and motorcycles were sparse, but tuk tuks, a car and a tricycle meshed into one, swerved past with broken breaks, and half working steering wheels, their destinations unknown. Smells and sounds all mashed into one blur of pandemonium. Many people claimed that India’s mayhem was too much for their senses to handle, but I loved everything about it, from its crazy smells to its beautifully insane disorganization.
This does not mean India was not beautiful, in fact that was far from the case. All of India’s buildings, from the ones down the alley to the ones in the middle of town would be considered monuments in New York. Each building had its own history carved into its walls. The landscape also was fabulous, the rolling mountains overhead, and the the glimmering ocean below.The abundant wildlife kept my brothers 100% occupied, while I just watched in awe. It was a truly magnificent experience.
Sounds too good to be true? Well it was. India’s overpopulation forces at least 300 million not only men and women, but babies, toddlers, and teenagers alike onto the streets. There were whole football fields filled with beggars of all ages asking not for as little as a cent, but for a simple drop of water, or a portion of food fit for a mouse. Little boys and girls about the age of three, would come and tug at your shirt and use the only word they know in English, “money.” Their big eyes would stare at you, and you could see their small bellies with nothing inside of them. I couldn’t give them anything because if I had given one small child a simple cent the rest would come, and each would want a cent and soon there would be chaos. So instead I walked by their desperate hands, and pretended I didn’t notice, but inside I was dying. It was the most heartbreaking experience I have ever had.
The beggars wore raggedy clothes that hadn’t been washed for years. Their faces were caked in mud, and they had nothing appealing about them. Most were starving and their stomachs caved in to show their protruding rib cages. Others were struck by disease, making their backs curve in odd ways. Some mumbled or screamed to themselves, yet I had no idea what they were mumbling about because India’s people speak an array of languages. A large number were blind, or had lost some limbs of some sort. It was a truly nauseating and depressing sight, and I felt pathetic because I didn’t do a thing.
On one particular afternoon in mid-December, my family and I were on our way to a famous sight when we walked into an area of beggars. My heart suddenly sunk. As we walked through them, people began pulling on our clothes begging. I had to combat the urge to suddenly break down in tears. We continued to walk, passing one man who looked about 75, had no legs, a raggedy canvas on his body, and an empty stomach. He rode on a trolly that we use in gym glass for fun. He desperately tried to use his hands to push himself close to us to stick out his hand for money. My family and I suddenly got swept away by a group of tourists who I supposed were going to the same site that we were. The man on the trolly moved his hands faster and faster trying to catch up to us, but we had the clear advantage, for we have legs, and energy from lunch. A sweat began to break out on his forehead, for it was clear that he was using all the energy he had left in him from his last meal (who knows how long ago that was). The sidewalk suddenly became very narrow, and the crowd of tourists and Indians separated me and my family. There was no place for the man on the trolly to go onto the sidewalk. So his only option was to go into the street with all the tuk tuks zooming past. He went onto the street narrowly avoiding the neurotic tuk tuks. I held my breath, I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t tell the man to get out of the street because the only English he knew was, “money? food? water?” Even if I did manage to tell him to get out of the street there was no place for him to go because there was no chance I could break the bee line of determined tourists and Indians.
He continued to push his worn out hands as fast as he could, at this point beyond the point of desperation. I looked to see where my parents had gone, and when I turned back to look at the old man for one last time I saw in the distance perhaps the only SUV in India rolling full speed towards the handicapped man. Its slick black coating selfishly showed the beggars who’s in power. I saw those same black tires roll right over the poor man’s frail hand. The man looked down at his limp hand and picked it up to coddle it. The man winced, and then broke down in tears, tears of injustice. He endured pain that I couldn’t imagine. I could tell from the way his deep brown eyes looked at his frail crushed hand that he knew it was over. He had no legs, and one hand, no money, food, or water, nothing.
A numbness enveloped my body; I felt like I was in some nightmare. Suddenly my mother’s hand yanked me towards her and she dragged me through the rest of the day. I didn’t think or feel, or move; I had nightmares of the same accident happening over and over again. And then my pity just turned into anger, anger at myself that I didn’t react, didn’t do anything, and I hated myself for that.
This anger began to evolve into hatred. Hatred at the world for allowing these injustices to happen, allowing millions upon millions of people to die of poverty. Many governments made it a law that all children must get an education, but why don’t all governments make it a law that all children must have food, water, and a shelter? I hated everything that the government was ignoring, everything else seemed like small matters compared to the cruelty that was not being addressed in India, and I’m sure many more places all over the world.
I knew at that point in my life I couldn’t do much to help major problems like that, but I made sure that I am more than grateful for what I have, not only do I have food, water, and a shelter, but I have a family that is loving, an education, and so many more innumerable things. So every time I get annoyed or stressed, I think about those millions of people who would do anything to be in my position.
From that moment on, I decided that I was going to devote my career, and perhaps my life, to helping others. My life can save millions, and I’m not going to pass up that opportunity.
Georgia Gallant, Age 14, Grade 8, The Dalton School, Gold Key