And Then I went to India

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:23 a.m.
“You haven’t written a column in a long time,” someone mentioned to me in passing. Yes, that’s true and I have some good excuses. I was chaperoning a trip to a student conference in India which included a one week pre-conference tour. It took me two weeks to get over jet lag and catch up at work and being a procrastinator, it’s taken me about another two weeks to decide what to write about.

The good folks at The Record have asked me to give my column a focus and in the last few months, my focus has been the world online: the Internet, cell phones, and the new technologies that are related to that world. Of course, coming back from a land and culture that seems so different, almost the complete opposite of the one that we know and love in Canada, I want to tell you about it.

One way that I can merge both of those is to give you an edited version of an email home. Now, at the time that I wrote the email, it was about 5:30 in the morning and the sun was just starting to come up. The overnight temperature probably hovered at about 30 degrees and that estimation might be on the low side. Day time temperatures rose above 40 degrees and the days were utterly scorching. I was told that this was hot weather even for them in October and all I could think of was that it would be impossibly hot as a summer day in the Townships! Early morning and night were the most comfortable times of the day, particularly because my students and I were staying at a boarding school in rooms in which there was no air conditioning.

The heat alone made it difficult to sleep but the fact that I was actually in India made it nearly impossible to sleep. Even after a week of adjusting to the fact that India is nine and a half hours ahead of Canada, I slept very few hours a night which explained why I was often in the dormitory’s computer room at sunrise typing an email to my husband on vintage computers from the 1990’s. The following email, however, was typed on a hotel computer, equally as old after one of the most challenging days of the trip:
Hi again, 

It's 6:15 here so must be 9 something or  10 your time.

I went to the Agra Fort today and just as my camera battery was dying, we went to the Mother Teresa Mission where there were mentally handicapped of all ages and orphans. We were all scooping up infants and holding them. The babies' legs were like twigs. The baby that I picked up had a very runny nose and a big smile. I couldn’t help thinking how much his life might be changed for the better if I snuck him back into Canada, even though I’m too old to start childrearing again.

As I was bouncing the baby around, I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to the baby and to a girl who looked very badly off. She begged me to sing it over and over with her hand gestures. She smiled so widely while I sang. I almost cried - it was an amazing feeling to give someone a moment of happiness just by singing a nursery rhyme.

 The worst moment for me was meeting the little boy, Rahul, who had lost a leg and whose other leg was bandaged and badly scarred.. The scar on his stump was very difficult to look at yet he had a very bright face with a huge smile. He was selling water to a train and the train ran over his leg. He was 10, 12? It was all I could do to keep from crying. The sister said that Rahul had been in the hospital for 6 months and then the hospital handed him over to the Mission. The sisters are caring for him but they cannot afford to pay for any further medical care which is worrisome because his other leg was bandaged and there was a large stain on the back of the bandage that didn’t look good to my untrained eyes.

I got some pictures of the mission and one of my travelling companions took a lot of photos and promised to share these with me. I think people need to see them. The sisters here are caring for what is considered to be the dregs of this society. We were all blown away.

We collected the equivalent of 400$ U.S. from our group so the visit was well worth it for the sisters of the mission. That might run the place for a month-they run strictly on donations.


I have to tell you that one month later that little boy Rahul is still very much on my mind so I have written to the mission asking permission to provide help, not an email, but good old fashioned snail mail. I have shown my school, friends and family the one photo that I have and many people are interested in donating money to see that he gets medical care and perhaps - and this is my big hope - a prosthetic leg. If not that, at least crutches that will help him get around. Right now, this poor little boy can only crawl.

I can’t help thinking that this is a problem that money can solve. You and I cannot help all the poor children that I saw begging on the street. If you saw Slumdog Millionaire, you have a pretty good idea of the brutality that children experience each day. One of my own photos shows a young girl with a baby slung around her shoulder who is standing in the middle of traffic in 40 degree heat and begging from car to car every time the traffic light turns red. I cannot help her though I somewhat callously took her photo from my seat on the air conditioned bus so that I could tell her story or the story of that moment to others. Yet I do know where Rahul is and I think that he can be helped.

I hope that the sisters agree to this and I hope that I can find the way to funnel money to the right organization who can help Rahul. It’s not enough to feel sorry; sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is and get a job done no matter how tough it looks at the beginning.



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