I’m in the Agra train station in northern India, reminiscing on the beautiful sights of the Taj Mahal, waiting for the evening train. My fiance, my father and I are heading back to Delhi, where we are spending a couple nights before flying home to Toronto. A boisterous cheering sound coming from a crowd of tourists standing on the platform in a circle draws our attention. We approach the circle and see a twenty-something Caucasian male tourist in the middle of the circle arm-wrestling with a small Indian boy (probably around 10 years-old) who was begging for money just minutes prior. There are two small Indian girls by his side, wearing torn clothes, their hair in knots, excitedly jumping and cheering too. The Indian boy wins the challenge and the endless smiles on these childrens’ faces is one of the last impressions of my trip…
Incredible !ndia. I just spent 3 weeks traveling around India–my parents’ birthplace and home to several of my relatives. I try and visit every 3 years or so–I know it’s time when I feel a particular sense of longing within me; a longing for the hustle, bustle, adventure, unique sights, sounds and of course smells, that only India offers. Every time I visit this wonderful country I get inspired. I get inspired to make a change and to use my gifts for the betterment of the world (it sounds cheesy, but it’s true!). I also get a renewed sense of appreciation for my life and life itself. In a country of 1 billion people, there is a lot to learn, see and experience, especially when the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Although the big cities of India are developing quickly, poverty throughout the country is still evident. On the streets of Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, I saw school-age children helping their parents work during the day, collecting stones and mud for various construction projects. I witnessed Indian women working labouriously in the tea estates of Kerala, standing barefoot between the spiny branches, carrying baskets on their heads; their faces looked dirtied and worn, but their undeniable beauty shone through nonetheless. Along the sidewalks and behind the little shops in the cities, I passed tarpaulin-covered tents garnished with nothing more than a few mats and a clothes line to house families of 3, 4, 5 and often many more. At tourist destinations, young boys and girls persevered in trying to sell me small souvenir items, relentlessly trying to persuade me and other tourists to buy, in order to gain the equivalent of $0.50. At the train station I was approached by children carrying babies, begging for food and money.
All of these examples were abundant throughout my explorations and filled me with sadness, humility, gratitude and motivation. I felt sadness for the kids who were on the streets instead of being in school, where they could have been gaining an education, which would open more doors for them in their future. I felt humbled by the diligence and dedication of all the women and men who would work tirelessly throughout the days and nights in the fields and in the ditches, yet would still smile at me as I would pass. I felt gratitude for all the gifts of life that I have and that my parents worked so hard to establish for me–my financial security, my home, my health, my education, my family and friends and my lifestyle. Finally, I felt motivation to embody the same work ethic and resilience as I witnessed in the people of India and most importantly, to appreciate my life and use my gifts to help improve the lives of those less fortunate.
Considering many people can’t afford enough food and shelter to live comfortably let alone buy a plane ticket, I feel that it is indeed a privilege to travel. If you have plans to travel, consider a place where the grass is not always greener–the perspective you gain will surely travel further than simply the destination on your boarding pass. Furthermore, if you have the opportunity to participate in some volunteer work while you’re there (which I have done in the past and highly recommend), you can learn a great deal about the lives of those who live there, give back to those communities where you visit and create uniquely meaningful memories to last a lifetime.
Although I have not drastically changed the world in any way, the inspiration gained from my travels to India has definitely spurred me into some actions that I’d like to think have made a small dent (or at least a teeny tiny dent) towards the betterment of this world.
This video encompasses many of the sentiments I’ve expressed above and I hope it provides you with further inspiration to help the world. 🙂