Roadside Reflections // Raw from India

Roadside Fire

As I explore  the streets of India I find myself absorbing a dynamic and provoking landscape.

Let me give you a tour. An insight.

• • •

If you glance on your left, there are roadside fires.

Locals huddle to keep warm. Kids squat next to the fire, and their knobbly knees poke out beneath their rag-doll clothing.

The kids might play. The might go to school by foot. They might move from car to car with flowers, or kiss their lips as a signal they are begging for money.

They might do a lot of things. But there are a lot of things they can’t do.

They can’t expect food to sit in a refrigerator waiting for them. They can’t expect to get warm in front of a heater while watching television. They can’t turn to their electronic devices to pass the time, or connect to others on social media.

These kids aren’t even the worst of it – they’re urban kids. Their reach is better than those in rural parts.

(A concern considering 70% of the population live in rural India.)

Indian Street Girls

These kids aren’t born into a family of wealth or education. They reside in the capital of the country – New Delhi – where paradoxical lifestyles are prevalent. There is a collision of shiny cars with dirt roads, bicycles with business suits, western malls with wonky fruit carts, and skyscrapers with slums.

I observe these kids from our bus.

Fog engulfs the city as Indian winter zaps life from the sun and people alike. I breathe a rasping breath as my immune system struggles to process the new environment, and the bus window clouds over.
This is the western perspective.

One glance at the circumstance: the conflict, the despair, the injustice. A few critical thoughts, an attempt to understand their position. Then a confusion, a struggle to imagine such reality. The culture is too much to absorb. So we place our own filter on the situation. We mask the truth with assumptions and judgments.

Nurture in India

As a mother walks towards the bus in the stopped traffic, she looks up, and my skin attracts her attention. Her eyes plead for mercy. Am I God? Can I bestow such hope? I wipe the windscreen, but I can’t wipe the misery from her eyes.

She cradles her baby. The child rests on her chest, so fragile, so lifeless. I wonder for their health, their nutrition. Does the mother place her child’s needs before her own? Can she provide? Where does their food come from? Where is their future? Why does begging appeal to them? How is this their daily drive?

• • •

I think of the PRME conference I am on my way to. How could skills development open up new opportunities for them? How can we save them so they can save themselves? Is the system able to be reframed for sustainable economic and social growth?

I feel like a failure as we drive away from the mother in the traffic. Left behind is the dream for change, the despair of the children.

What can I do? What can we do?

We obviously aren’t doing enough. Its not a criticism, its a cold truth.

Indian Streets

While we (the West) save for another car, house, phone, TV, luxury… there are millions scraping for that cent, that dollar, that rupee… just to survive for another day.

As I enter an international conference (PRME – Principles for Responsible Management Education), studying for a mere three weeks in an international program on Social Entrepreneurship and Rural Markets, I am reminded that the people we need to EMPOWER and EDUCATE are within our reach. They are within our sphere. They are on the other side of the foggy glass, and instead of looking at my own reflection, it’s time to look beyond.

Kisses from India, Xx

{Note: Personal Reflection Piece from Travel Diary}

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