By Maniar, Tejas
The Humanist , Vol. 61, No. 5
Our plane touched down at Mumbai International Airport in Bombay, India, and I wondered how I would pass the next two excruciatingly boring months in a land without high-tech computer games, Eminem, or Dr. Dre. When I stepped out of the airport and onto the streets of Bombay, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of dismay. Although I was in my homeland, the very place my ancestors were from, I felt as if I was a complete stranger. As I glanced to my left, a young child was glaring into my eyes with his outstretched hand begging for alms. A bit taken aback, I turned the other way only to come upon an even more distressing sight. I witnessed an event that forever changed my outlook on life.
A cowering young boy scampered up the road trying to escape the fierce blows of a man striking him with a whip. The child managed to stumble a few more feet and then the whip went whirling through the air and thundering down upon his naked back. He let out a shriek of pain. Blow after blow, the man administering the whip continued his attack until the boy began to plead for mercy. I stood there bewildered by the event that had just taken place before my eyes. Even after the crowd had left, I could hear the boy's screams echoing in my ears. I couldn't understand how someone could beat a child with a whip to the point of near death.
Witnessing the boy's beating was an event that emotionally disturbed me. My feelings were out of control and I felt like I wanted to save the world. But I knew that to make a difference I first needed to take action within my own community.
For two years I have been involved with a local children's fair for abused and mentally handicapped children. It has been a fulfilling experience, not only because I have been able to do something for these children but because I have learned to empathize with their tragic experiences. I am proud of the work I did within my local community but my heart told me that I had to donate my time to help children abroad as well I help people in India who suffer from polio. Polio is a disease for which modern medicine has found a vaccine, yet the disease continues to spread in India due to inadequate medical treatment. I find this irony unacceptable. Therefore, I have been writing letters to celebrities and business officials in hopes of gaining their financial support to help eradicate polio in India.
The trip to India opened my eyes to a society I had never before witnessed. Unity, love, morality, fraternity are the only words that can describe the Indian society I now hold so near to my heart. When I stepped off the plane I was an outsider. But the longer I stayed and the more people I met, the clearer it became that I could become part of their society.
In the United States, my experience has shown, people are wary of foreigners, whereas in India people accept outsiders as their own with little hesitation. For example, one day my cousin Paras convinced me to go to his high school with him. As I entered the classroom, every last bit of confidence and safety that I had disappeared; dozens of eyes were scrutinizing my every move. …