I am so grateful that I have never starved.

As I write, there is a skinny feral cat on my table eating my leftover food scraps. He walked around the patio of my hostel skittishly meowing out of hunger. He finally got brave enough to jump up next to me and start eating my food. His hunger overcame his fear of humans and he took the risk to survive.

Sadly, this is such a large component that makes up India. Dogs, cats, cows, goats, and pigs are all over the streets here. The animals in more rural villages are much skinnier than the ones in bigger cities. Still, they are all starving and crave love nonetheless. The starving animals don’t even come close to the sight of starving children, though, if you can imagine that.

Walking away from a child in need goes against every fiber of my being. Unfortunately, this is a situation every tourist or traveler will find themselves in while visiting this country.

When passing by begging kids, they tend to follow for blocks tapping at our legs and arms mumbling words to try and get our attention. I cried every time I had to walk away from them. The thing is, feeding one begging child or family is simple, however, more often than not the people begging are in large somewhat dispersed groups. The moment I give food or money to one person, six others will come flocking, then more and more. If we had decided to keep giving in this way, we would have ran out of money before making it down the block. The worst part of it all is saying no to a hungry person or family. Mothers beg in the alleys holding their babies asking for milk money, and they will also follow for blocks.

One action we tried to utilize was eye contact. If we can not provide or help in a situation, the least we can do is give eye contact and recognize these people as people, no matter how difficult this small act can be. These are people who are experiencing life in a way that I never will, even if I do become homeless someday, I doubt it could ever be to this kind of degree. It takes more strength than I could have fathomed just to be able to look someone in the eye who is desperate and hungry with limbs missing or a family to feed.

While I was in bed sick one day in Jaipur, my boyfriend came back and said he was in a tuk tuk and saw a sobbing father on the side of the road cradling his child who looked to be lifeless or very ill. The story alone is enough to bring me to tears.

Honestly, the most jarring and most frequent of these scenarios we encountered were in Varanasi- that holy, sacred, chaotic, beautiful, culturally dense city. In the first few days the air pollution gave me a terrible head and sinus cold. There is so much going on in the small alleys that make up the city that I was overwhelmed with the dust and air, along with taking in the heavy religious presence, conservative demeanor, beggars, scams, animals, and raw humanity. Varanasi is also where we saw the most tourism out of everywhere else we went, which could explain the higher amount of beggars – by the dozens. Everywhere else we went in India we encountered beggars and very sad situations but never as heavily as in Varanasi, although, there were also more in more rural areas.

India has changed my life and how I perceive situations and the world in ways I am still just beginning to unravel. By Thanksgiving we had been in India for almost two months and while my boyfriend and I don’t celebrate the ‘holiday,’ we met a group of travelers who were having a big dinner so we joined them. Of course, we all went around the table and said what we were grateful for, and the first thought that came to me was that while I have been hungry, I am so thankful that I have never been starving.  Everyone at the table sat in a moment of silence to recognize this profound gratitude. We appreciated things we grew up with that we had taken for granted like hot and running water, consistent electricity, a bed without bugs, freedom of expression, right to education, blankets, clean water, food, and health.

I do hope this post is not coming across as snobbish. I simply mean to discuss what people from fully developed countries utilize daily without a second thought. There is another universe within ours experiencing our exact opposite. Everyone knows this of course, but experiencing it engraved this notion into my heart, which I now carry with me as a daily reminder.

Someone out there will always have it worse or better than me, so I appreciate what I do have because there is so much more to lose.

By | 2018-02-27T19:56:50+00:00 February 27th, 2018|India, thoughts, Travels|
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