A small child, maybe 18 months old, dirty, dressed in rags, squatting in the gutter, drinking the dirty water.
The image is seared in my brain. I saw it at the beginning my trip, maybe in Mumbai, and it’s impossible to shake.
The children in India broke my heart.
My first-world eyes saw no children in car seats in this third-world nation.
I can’t tell you how often I saw older children holding younger siblings, even when they were still small, themselves. These two were waiting for their mother, who had an even smaller child, below.
They were beggars.
Even in the worst of circumstances, a smile.
The poverty. And yet: smiles. What do they have to smile about? I thought to myself. Every day.
So much poverty.
I saw dozens of smiles.
Children with broad, happy smiles. Genuine.
Children dressed in rags waving happily at us as we passed. I didn’t see envy or hostility.
Students in their school uniforms, grinning at us tourists.
Tiny children all over waved to us.
At the Pushkar Camel Festival
Children out with their families, waving.
We were “an event” for children, everywhere we went. And always, always greeted, whether by enthusiastic boys…
Or shyer, but still vocal young girls…
Don’t let the natty school uniforms fool you. Sometimes, they were the only nice outfits kids owned.
Yes, the children. They broke my heart, and yet, their joyous spirits were infectious. They were one of the best things about India.
And often, the saddest.