Delhi / poverty / travel

Entering the beauty and sadness of the third world …

I know I am months behind on this blog, and I really should get around to updating everyone with our news. I promise I will try and get it caught up before Christmas.

I have a few minutes downtime and I felt compelled with the need to write about my experiences today.

India – a lot of people have a one sided negative view of it. I’ve had a few people in the last week or so look at me in horror when I shared the excitement that I was coming here. I’ve always wanted to come to India. The food, the cricket, the saris, that amazing Taj Mahal – there are so many things that have always seemed quite magical about the country. I know it is a country of great contrast with extreme poverty and a large population of struggling people. Despite that it has always been a country that has intrigued me.

I’m in Delhi, India. I am REALLY here. RIGHT NOW (well – it was when I typed this). I am typing from my hotel room after my first day of a truly Indian experience. I arrived in the early hours of the morning and after 2 and a half hours of waiting in lines for customs and luggage got a couple of hours sleep before rising to a new day in a new country.

Unable to sleep in, I ventured out early this morning for a quick look around the hotel. It is a lot bigger than it looked in the pre-morning dark and very open with a completely different architecture from any hotel (or – well – ANY building) I have ever been in. I don’t have the adapter to load photos from my camera but I’ll try and remember to share some pics when I get back to Honkers. The air was heavy with the heady smoke of incense. I quickly realised there are incense sticks in the gardens which burn all day and incense burner pots in the corridors as well. It adds to the atmosphere of the hotel and (I suppose) to the smokey haze which seems to rise from ground level across the city.

The hotel is gated and under heavy security so the ‘outside world’ that had been shrouded in the darkness of my arrival still lay beyond the hotel walls. Curious as always, I decided to wander out for a look. I was greeted by 1) strange looks from the security personel (who in hindsight were probably a little concerned for my safety) and 2) the chaotic singing of horns – car horns, truck horns, bus horns, bike horns… beep beep, toot toot, croak croak (yep – some cars here really do just croak not unlike a frog).

Out on the street I realised the chaotic noise was nothing compared to that actual disarray of the vehicles on the road. The road was sealed (just) with two lanes, one in each direction. On my side of the road alone were three lanes of vehicles heading down the road. Motorbikes weaving in and out, motorised and pedal tuk-tuks pushing into the space that would normally give you a gap between the vehicle beside you. It was INSANE. I walked down the dirt verge on the road (there were no footpaths/sidewalks) a bit. As much as I was intrigued by the sights around me, the people both on the street and in the vehicles seemed as intrigued by me. Everyone turned to stare at me, most with a look of curiosity. I smiled and kept on walking in the direction I had chosen with my mind saying “WOW” every few seconds. Wow to the number of people walking on the dirt verges and road weaving their way to (I guess) work. Wow to the beautiful colours of the saris and shawls the women were wearing. Wow to the craziness of the traffic. Wow to the rubbish everywhere. It truly was a sensory experiences of sight, smell and noise.

After a breakfast I booked a private car to drive me around Delhi for the afternoon. I did this because females are not encouraged to venture out on their own here – especially if you are a tourist. It isn’t necessarily dangerous, but allegedly there is the risk of being harassed. You can see why the security were worried in the morning when I went for my ‘free’ walk down the street.

I’m not going to bore you with the beautiful sights I saw today as I want the pictures to show you how amazing the historic landmarks and quirky chaos of this city are. However, I really do want to share the … hmm … is it an epiphany (?) I had when confronted with the stark reality of poverty face to face.

We were sitting at traffic lights waiting for them to change when a small girl perhaps a year or two older than Bethany came trotting over to our car. She started to do backflips and handstands. A true acrobat in her own right. The reality of course was the carnival tricks are a form of begging. She wanted money. As much as my heart really wanted to give her something, my mind knew I couldn’t. She had a ‘pimp’ (I’m not sure what you would call them) all of perhaps 14 or 15 years watching her from the median strip in the centre of the road we were on.

When her flips and twirls didn’t work, she came up to my window and put her hand out in a traditional begging stance. The doors were locked and the windows were up and I was in no danger however my heart wanted nothing more than to give her something while my mind stood firm. It her last desperate act the young girl put her hands on the window and framed her face which she pressed to the glass. Her beautiful large brown eyes pleaded with me in desperation trying to break my minds stance. The driver shooed her off the car at this point, but I had tears filling my eyes and rolling down my cheeks.

I was torn. This beautiful young child was reduced to nothing but a parlour trick in order to obtain money – of which she probably would be lucky to see even one rupee. That is the reality. That brief glimpse into her life made my heart cry for her. There is no support for her. She will never escape the life she has now. Charity organisations don’t help children like her who are stuck in between the world of poverty and crime. Her beautiful face and amazing talent will never be rewarded. She will never know freedom. She will never know what it is like to be loved. Truly loved. I weeped for what her life could have been and what neither I nor anyone on this planet will ever be able to give her.

We see the images on tv and we know the poverty and child abuse here exists, but that little girls face really pushed home to me how REAL that poverty is.

I am blessed with two children I love with all my heart. I give them all that I can in the hope they will become all that they can be. I am lucky and they are lucky. We take each other for granted every day. I know more now than ever how precious our freedom and our ability to love and nurture our children is. Being a mum (and dad) is a gift not only to me and my husband, but to our kids as well. There are some amazing parents in this world who are able to take the babies that might end up like that little girl I saw today and give them a life of love too. To those mums – you are the light of the world. Events today have left me knowing I can not put into words how truly grateful I am for those who can offer a child such freedom.

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