We arrived into the Delhi Train station after a 4 and a half hour journey from Rishikesh. The fare for the train was about 5 bucks. I was lucky enough to sit next to a young Indian woman, in Grade 12, who was taking her brother ( grade 8 ) to Delhi to visit their auntie for 10 days. She had a very Western flavour that we had not experienced to this point. Her nails were beautifully manicured exhibiting a shiny blue polish in perfect curvature. Her toe nails were a vibrant pink glistening through her stylish black sandals that wrapped her ankles, coyly exhibiting a pink gemstone. She wore tight jeans and a cute light purple t-shirt – of course, purple always makes me take notice. 😉
As I began speaking with her and asking her of her life in a small village just north of Rishikesh, her beautiful sparkling eyes and smiles went well with the rest of her outfit. She was eager to practice her perfect English with me, and told me that she wanted to speak better English, even though we had no problem at all communicating.
She spoke of her family and her dog at home and soon, she told me that her father had ‘expired’ nine years earlier. I listened attentively and finally worked up the courage to ask her how it was that her father had died. She glanced down at her feet for a moment, then looked back up, and said that he had died of the jaundice. Maybe Hepatitis of some sort I thought. I asked her if her mom worked, and she said no. She told me that they lived in the house with her father’s family and once that her father had passed, that the rest of the family held no respect for her mother, her brother and herself. Thankfully, her auntie in Delhi had been very generous in helping support the three of them, because her father’s family did not.
I looked at this beautifully articulate young women, who would start her Engineering degree next year at the University of Delhi, and I wondered how it was possible for a family to turn their back on her and her family. I asked her, ‘why do they do that to you?’ She grinned slyly and said, ‘they cannot help it, they have a low mentality.’ I shook my head in disbelief as I finally understood a piece of India that I did not like. Does ‘low mentality’ only mean uneducated and if this is the case, is the mentality of India changing as the technological revolution takes hold? Is this a technological revolution or is this simply an industrial revolution with a little technology thrown in? Has this mentality been the reason that India has not kept up with the industrialized world? These questions are still floating through my consciousness, and I am not sure if there is any one thing to blame or like most things in life, many unrelated events that have conspired to push India into the depths of poverty when it had been a resource rich country at one time, when the trade routes had flourished.
We had witnessed a rough part of India that was colourful and vivid, yet carried its own sadness, as the homeless and the beggars wandered the over-crowded streets in the hot sun looking to strangers for food and water. I had felt conflicts as I knew that one dollar of my Canadian currency would give them food for a week, yet at the same time, I wanted to encourage education.
With this girl and her brother it was different. She was a sister (to all of us) who would never in a million years ask for anything, but with her, to her, I wanted to give. ‘We’ wanted to give. We wanted to make her journey easier. We wanted to help. This is what we can give, right? A little time, a little understanding, a little education, and a changed nation, perhaps.