Day 124- the haves and have nots

I leave Rishikesh today. I have one last chance before lunch to stand with my feet in the cool water of the Ganges. It is the middle of the day and I think my teeth are melting. I’m standing in silent contemplation when a bright blue Kingfisher swoops down to break the still surface of the water.

It is sad to leave this place, this region that has been so significant to this part of my journey. It is sad to leave behind some friends that I have grown so close to and to let go of the familiar. How quickly attachments can grow.

It is 6 hours in a taxi back to Delhi. The train would have been cheaper but the Shatabdi express which takes 4.5 hours from Haridwar was all sold out anyway so I would have had to take another slower train. I decide to save $6 and get the non air conditioned vehicle. Big mistake. This is a dusty country, so if you don’t want to arrive at the destination caked in dirt with a dry throat, consider A/C and keep the windows closed!

As the country gives way to thick city smog, the streets become more congested with cars and people. When we finally arrive back into the concrete jungle that is Delhi, it is sunset. As it darkens, we approach the hotel where I will be meeting Pri. The taxi pulls up at the final intersection by the hotel and a woman approaches the car, begging. I can’t say no, she is holding the tiniest baby I’ve ever seen. It can’t be more than a few weeks old. She shakes its hand at me even after I hand over far too little. I can’t even tell if this baby is alive or not. Suddenly I’m sick with the possibility of this baby being dead. I can’t look. I feel so bad. What kind of person am I, if I just hand over money and look away? But I can’t even look at this child that will one day beg at the windows of younger travellers (maybe even my own children).

My mother is from Mexico so seeing how badly people have it in a country like that gave her a different perspective on the homeless in Australia:  she felt that Australia was so full of opportunity, the beggars must just be lazy. Nobody could say that in most parts of the world. The fact is, if you have to be begging then life must be tough. But most people say no to the beggars. We have been conditioned to believe that maybe they don’t get to keep the money anyway, that they all live in some Oliver Twist home for the poor where they hand all their funds over to some rich, miserly, overlord.

But it is so hard to see. Harder to look away. I reach for my phone then put it away. What kind of evil being hands over a wad of notes then looks at their phone? I want to give her everything in my wallet. I want to take the baby and feed it myself. All I have is a half eaten muesli bar. Then a part of my brain reminds me that the world is full of haves and have nots. India is also full of those who choose to have not. The renunciates. And what makes them different from the poor beggars? They choose to starve and beg for alms. They choose to sleep in the cold. This baby did not choose. S/he doesn’t even know where s/he is yet.

I walk into the cold air conditioned hotel lobby. It is shiny, new and beautiful. My eyes go straight to the restaurant. My mind thinks the body is starving but my heart knows I’ve eaten plenty today. Definitely more than the woman in the street. I check in, I shower and I enter the tapas bar to enjoy wifi, wine and deep fried asparagus. It feels so hollow. If some have and some have not, would it make a difference if the haves decide to have not? Or do the have nots still have not? What if the haves do everything they can to help the have nots? Because giving up my meal won’t feed them. But if I work for my meal and have some left over, then I can pay for their meal too, right?

My brain is sore and fuzzy. The world is unfair. The world is sick. Some can travel and do yoga and drink wine. Some must sleep in the cold street and carry their babies between cars to ask for enough money to eat. All I can offer back to this world is the gratitude for this charmed life and the strength to be able to do something about those who are not so charmed.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. savasana addict
    May 05, 2012 @ 05:14:50

    It’s crazy what India does to us, isn’t it? I haven’t met a single person that hasn’t been touched by the country, be it in a positive (love it!) or negative (hate it!) way. You step off the plane and are thrown into such a diversity you’d hardly find anywhere else. It really makes one wonder. But I guess that’s part of practising yoga as well… Good luck and all the best for your journey, it sounds amazing!


    • elizabethmajor
      May 06, 2012 @ 18:13:42

      Thanks! Well even the seemingly “negative” moments are really just blessings of learning and growth. So grateful for every single breath in this place!


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