It wasn’t until I undertook voluntary work in India that I developed compassion, despite many years consciously traveling the Multidimensional Spiritual Path. I have since dropped identification with the word spiritual. Like the God word it is misused, abused and misinterpreted. It was through volunteering in India with street and slum kids that I really got an insight into abject poverty. It was moving to watch people who have nothing, and that face enormous challenges just to get through every day of grinding poverty, give back, by their attitude of resilience and courage, far more than they received from me.
I arrived in Calcutta, naive and eager in the winter of 2006. It was some 6 weeks later having suffered hand injuries and pollution infections that I got anywhere near understanding how it is for those who are homeless, often orphans, attempting to survive on station platforms without getting taken hostage by pimps and the mafia. The movie “Slum Dog Millionaire” did not in any way under illustrate the very real circumstances that the millions of homeless and destitute kids surviving in India and elsewhere in the world have to face. Alas the desire of many willing individuals to grow and experience through voluntary work has been hi-jacked by organizations that promote voluntary work as an alternative holiday. These entrepreneurs set up programs so that volunteers rarely get the chance to experience what it means to live and work alongside poor people for long enough to get a real grasp of how individuals in these communities live on a daily basis in grinding self diminishing poverty.
This is only one side of a story. India, as in China and many other countries that have millions of poor people, is also awash with millionaires and billionaires.
It was whilst watching a young Indian girl who had to walk daily with crutches because her left leg was stunted and half the size of her right leg, as I sat unable to do anything, due to injury; that made me see my own plight in its rightful perspective. To watch this young girl walk to Sealdah station’s platform 10 at 07-00 in the morning, to participate in the volunteering program I was assigned to, alongside other children, was gut wrenching. To see her serene smile as she completed her English papers and drew pictures, before she limped with the aid of her crutches to queue in line for the food distribution was humbling. To experience the proud smile of a twelve year old deaf and dumb orphan boy, who had taken on the responsibility to escort me to the correct platform, for my journey back to the village I was staying in, smashed my volunteer ego to pieces and almost reduced me to tears. These and more incidents too numerous to mention not only caused me to re-evaluate my life but showed me humanity in a different light.
“It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live. Mother Teresa of Calcutta