I love India. I spent weeks traveling around the north of the country, through tiny towns, big cities and an endless sea of slums. It humbled me. It woke me up. It ignited fire in my heart. A fire that still exists today. A fire that is fanned every time I look at what pictures I have left of my time there (let’s not bring up the stolen hard drive that broke my heart).
I was 23 when I first stepped foot on the dark earth of this mysterious land. I was young and naive. I was full of wonder. I spent time working in little one room schools made of garbage bags in the middle of small hovels in the centre of some of the biggest slum colonies that exist in the world. Little tents made of garbage and plastic and broken wood as far as the eye can see. The smell of shit and sickness and dirt and pain filled my body and made my eyes water. The sound of laughter and the cries of joy surprised me. The kindness and the genuine generosity of even the poorest soul humbled me.
In the eyes of every child I saw myself. And now when I look back at the photographs I see Bo in them. In each of them. In their sickness and their pain. I see us. We are all just people. I held their hands and listened to them talk in languages I couldn’t understand. I gifted them with candies and fresh bread and watched them eat. I sat with women in a refuge while they cooked me lunch and I held their babies for them while they prepared the tea. I cried with them as they told me their stories of pain, stories that although I couldn’t speak the same language I understood every word. These women, these children, these hardworking men. The only difference between them and me was where we were born. The luck of the draw. Nothing else separates us.
I went to India as a young relatively well traveled wild child. I came back a different person.
Pakistani Border: The closing of the gates/ Henna in Delhi/ Ghandi’s grave site/ Swingin’ in style/ Simple Joys/ Tiger in the wild/ Amber fort/ Metal detectors in the street: Delhi/ Ranthambore /Best Kids: YYTS/Gifting new skills: Slum school Delhi /Women’s shelter sewing /Me and the girls /My lunch dates for a week: Chandigarh
India, you dusty, wondrous temptress. I will return to you one day, with Bo. I will come back and we will do what we can to make a difference, even it if it is to one child, one day. I will show Bo your secrets. I will let her dip her toes in and let her experience the luck of her birth, show her we are all the same. Us humans. We are no different. We are all made of the same pain and the same joy and the same beauty… no matter what clothes us or what feeds us or what we own. We are all born and one day, we all die.
This is our global village.