For the past few weeks, I have been writing about the trip I took last month to India. Primarily for business, I was able to add some personal travel to my journey, and I shared the highlights here on Red Shutters. In case you missed my posts, here they are:
While India had always been a place I wanted to visit, it was not in my top three destinations (they, for the record, are 1) Australia, 2) Antarctica, and 3) Mauritius). I was very, very lucky to get to India, however. I’m not sure—with the demands of parenting and a location more than 7,000 miles from home—if I ever would have gotten there—or at least I would not have gotten there for a very long time.
A colleague told me that, despite being very interested in India and its culture, she wasn’t sure she could ever travel there. She cited the poverty and prevalence of street children as her reasons for preventing her from buying an airplane ticket. I understood her concerns. As a parent—well, as a human being—it’s so hard—heartbreaking, really—to see so many children begging. I knew I would see this when I committed to go to India, but I was still shocked by it. Having small kids—kids the same age as my own—stand by my window, while I sat in a clean, air-conditioned car, asking for money or food was deeply disturbing. And yet it happens all the time.
According to UNICEF http://www.unicef.org/sowc06/profiles/street.php, tens of million of children worldwide live and work on the streets. India is home to many of them. I think I will forever carry with me the experience of having street kids in Delhi and Mumbai approach me for help. Some of those requests may have legitimate calls for help, but many asks are orchestrated by adults who use the children as tools in their own criminal activities. It’s impossible for a visitor like me to know when a request will make an important difference in a child’s life or when the money will go into someone else’s pocket. Thankfully, street children, often seen as “invisible” in most cultures, are getting a higher profile of late, including in India where Kailash Satyarthi, an children’s activist, won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite this tragedy, I’d love to go back. There’s so much I didn’t get to see—Goa, Jaipur, Chennai, and the Himalayas. Perhaps another visit for business is in my future, or perhaps a trip when my kids are older so they can learn more our world—both the amazing and the heartbreaking.