People think that India is a third world country, and in many ways it still is. However, on my Winterim trip to India, I found much to love and admire about the country. Throughout my trip, I met a lot of people who had a greater impact on me than any other aspect of the country. Do people from more developed nations still look down on India? Certainly the people of India do not have as much wealth as people do on average in the United States. But the country is changing rapidly.
Our group received a huge welcome at the airport at about three o’clock in the morning from VJ’s friend and his wife. They made big garlands with yellow, red and white fresh flowers that they placed around our necks in a friendly manner––they made us the center of attention and I was so impressed by their graciousness and generosity. When we got on the bus and prepared for the three-hour ride to Pondicherry, they thoughtfully gave each of us the essential of life–– bottled water. They were the most careful people I have ever had contact with, especially Valen who even left his family and spent five whole days with us serving as our guide. They were so selfless and helpful, we felt unsecure when we had to leave them and fly to Trichy...
In Pondicherry, we also visited an orphanage called Baby Sarah’s Home. I was overwhelmed when the kids lined up in the hallway to get candy from us. It was a feast for them. The building housing the orphanage has only two floors. I found it hard to accept that more than 100 kids could live in such a small space. Most of the kids have some physical or mental disability. Their hair was cut so that they could not use it to harm themselves accidentally. As a female, I felt sad that the girls could not have pretty hair or wear fancy dresses. However, when I asked one of the girls what she thought of the orphanage, she told me in a clear sentence that she “loves this place” and that the orphanage is “her home.” Through our discussion with the head of the orphanage, who was herself an orphan, we learned that a lot of kids cannot find a place to stay even when they grow up. As a consequence, Baby Sarah’s Home encourages such young people to go to work during the day and come back for the night. They not only encourage kids to learn job skills, but also try to meet children’s interests in such activities as the dance class they hold on Sunday mornings. 5,000 dollars is all the money the orphanage needs to operate for one month.
Surely those are the people in India who are living at the bottom of the society, but they are fighting to get a better life, they are enjoying every little bit in their life, and they are more hardworking than many of us. The trip was an inspiration, particularly our work at the orphanage. You can see how quickly the country is changing and growing.