I’ve taken this journey at least ten times; by car, by train and by bus. Each time I see something different along the way. Each time I see many of the same things.
I remember this one particular time on the train. We had arrived in Delhi late the night before and found our way to our hostel, only to find out that it was fully booked. The manager sent us down a tiny alley around the corner to their other hostel. The three of us piled into our room and figured we could steal a few hours of rest before getting up early to catch the first train to Haridwar.
After a 30-hour journey to get to India from Canada, and a few hours of sleep, we found ourselves on the train. It was my first time in first class, with assigned seats and breakfast was included! Finally I was feeling comfortable. As the train left the station I was able to relax and take in my surroundings.
We passed the all familiar dusty roads filled with people, cars, cows and dogs. I could hear the faint sound of the horns honking outside but the hum of the train was more prevalent. As the crowded city of Delhi began to give way to the countryside, I looked out the window and saw some kids playing naked next to the tracks. There were three of them, with their mother nearby washing some clothes in a bucket of water. One child was crying while the other was playing with garbage. The third child, who looked to be about two years old, was taking a shit about three feet from our train that was flying by.
As I was about to take a bite of my roti I felt a wave of emotion well up inside me and the thought that I will never get used to seeing this. I had witnessed similar circumstances of poverty in my many previous trips to India. Part of me wondered would I become desensitized.
I couldn’t hold back my tears, along with the feeling of sadness with a tinge of anger at the unfairness of it all. How unfair it was that I got to sit in first class eating my breakfast while the kids were running around naked at the edge of the tracks. I felt guilty and helpless, but mostly sad. I just stared out the window with that image burned into my mind for the next hour or so, I don’t really know. Time didn’t seem to matter.
Then my mind went into bargaining phase… well we were going to be doing some work for the school we had built through Helping Hands. We had come to India to practice yoga and to check in on the school. Could I rid myself of the guilt by soothing myself that I was going to do something good while staying in Rishikesh? I can’t help everyone, right?
It’s the sheer disparity between the rich and the poor that exists in the world, that I still can’t wrap my head around. Why do some people get to own many houses and private jets that they barely use, while others struggle to survive and they don’t know where their next meal is coming from?
How do I get to a point of acceptance of what is? I can’t control the lives of other people. I can help to make a difference, even if small. When I feel frustrated it helps me to channel that energy into action somehow. It helps me to feel more productive instead of sitting around feeling angry at the world.