A great piece of reflective writing written by one of the young people on the October India Trip.
A Rich Man’s World
Recently, I returned from a trip to India, aiming to teach at a school in a rural impoverished part of the country. I arrived at Heathrow, and as I came out of customs I ran towards WHSmith in need of familiar comfort. The first thing I noticed was the prices. For example, a magazine was three pounds, a chocolate bar was seventy pence. It occurred to me that I had just returned from a country were many people do not get more than a pound a week.
The Leper Colony I visited with the charity gets only two and fifty rupees a month, around three pounds, the same price as the magazine. There are about fifty people living in the colony, all excluded from society.
When I arrived at the colony the thing I noticed was the smell. At first, it was overwhelming, assaulting my nostrils, but I, along with everyone else, became used to it quite quickly. The colony was situated by a mountain of rubbish, the cause of the smell, with pigs running loose around it. The colony itself was small, with two lanes with six or seven shacks on either side. The ramshackle, rickety houses were home to the lepers and their families.
The sound of a baby’s cry and the whispers of young children surprised me, because I hadn’t expected there to be young lepers. As we climbed out of the bus thought, the mood seemed to change; everyone came out to greet us, old people with obvious cases of leprosy, pink gnarled flesh, missing digits of limbs, young children with no disease at all. I soon found out that if one of the members of your family had any signs of leprosy, the whole family were shunned due to ignorance about the disease.
In spite of this, we were all greeted with smiles and warm handshakes. We sat and listened to their songs and realised that, although they had so little, they found happiness and comfort from their faith and community.
I stood in the airport looking at the front cover of a magazine picturing a well-known movie star, and her one million dollar engagement ring, a lump of diamond that could have bought enough food for the leper colony to last for ten years. Advertisements for handbags worth nine hundred pounds, pedicures for pets, nail vanish made from crushed diamonds, the contrast between the lepers with their fellowship and their faith sustaining them, ad our obsession with Celebrity and wealth showed strong as I flicked through the magazine. What I held in my hand enraged me.
In the West we are bombarded with images of things, and we take pleasure in them. My visit to India has made me remember that life is not about what we have, but what we do, and how we help each other, enriching our lives.
As it is said in the Bible,
‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’