India: the children broke my heart + filled me with joy

December 10, 2013

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.

kid in carMy first-world eyes saw no children in car seats in this third-world nation.

sad kids2I 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.

sad kids momThey were beggars.

Even in the worst of circumstances, a smile.

naked baby 2 naked babyThe poverty. And yet: smiles.  What do they have to smile about? I thought to myself. Every day.

So much poverty.

And yet

I saw dozens of smiles.

children smilingChildren with broad, happy smiles. Genuine.

child waveChildren dressed in rags waving happily at us as we passed. I didn’t see envy or hostility.

Just smiles.

students smilingStudents in their school uniforms, grinning at us tourists.

kids wave to usTiny children all over waved to us.

At the Pushkar Camel Festival

At the Pushkar Camel Festival

taj with kids cuteChildren 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.

6 comments on “India: the children broke my heart + filled me with joy
  1. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    I had the opposite reaction. The children lifted my spirit. Everywhere they wanted to “shake” hands American style; and try out their English, smiling and always laughing as they crowded around me. They loved touching my hair, which is very blond. It was the beggar children, out after dark with their parents, knocking on the car window as we left India who desperate for food. When I passed a banana and a roll out the window that I had been saving for the long flight home, it was gobbled down in a split second. And yes, THAT broke my heart.

  2. admin says:

    We did have parallel experiences, as I had both emotions, as well. I wanted to pick them all up and make it better But of course, I can’t. And even trying to help from here is hard because of the corruption and the inability to ensure the help would get where it’s meant. So, our own homeless are where we focus our efforts.

  3. Dakshesh says:

    Happiness is a state of mind and these kids prove it.

  4. Doreen McGettigan says:

    I am enjoying reading your posts but those poor children. They do seem to
    just be grateful for what they have. The photos stay with me…

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