India. I see the street urchins and beggars everywhere we go. The mothers clutching tiny babies; filthy; pleading eyes; hands to mouth. The wretches with no use of their legs, dragging their bodies from car to car. Hopeful. Wanting. Begging.
As the car stops at traffic lights you know that within seconds it will begin – the light but incessant tapping at the window. It won’t stop. You don’t look. You can’t look. You look. It’s an old man. He is blind and is being led by his desperate grandson. It’s a young girl, teeth missing, filthy. It’s a young boy; physically deformed. It’s the destitute. It’s the pitiful. It’s everywhere.
I give them money – the equivalent of a dollar. They bow gratefully, clutching the paper and coins in their dirty, broken hands. And we move on to the next stop, and next group of unfortunates.
How can it be that in a country that this week lauded its arrival as an emerging nation by putting a rocket into space, can have such abject poverty? How can this make any sense?
In Delhi I visit the old part of town and a restaurant that is as famous for its history as it is its food. When we leave, we climb into a rickshaw. Within seconds, he is there. A young boy, no more than 9 years old. Begging for money. I try to ignore him. He persists.
The ‘driver’ says something to him and the young boy snaps back. I ask “what did he say” and my companion tells me that he told the ‘driver’ to do his job and he will do his. He is 9. And his job is begging.
Already this is to be his life. Is there no way out? He runs beside the rickshaw – he is light and quick on his feet. And through all the dust, dirt, grime, noise and traffic, I smile. This boy could be an athlete. Look at how well he moves! When the rickshaw stops, he is right there. I give him money.
I say to him: “This is for potential lost”. He smiles and thanks me. He doesn’t understand a word.
He is not interested in potential. His focus is on survival. What a luxury to think about tomorrow with hopes and dreams.
India is full of those with potential that will never be realised. In fact it will not even be considered. Who knows the number? Certainly in the millions. A great athlete, musician, politician, scientist engineer – here he is, begging. Tomorrow will be just another day.
As I think about this young boy and his pleading eyes and his persistent, light touching of my forearm, I am motivated. We all have potential and can always find a reason not to realise it – no time; I’ll do it tomorrow; if that happens I’ll do it; pay the mortgage first – and on it goes. The sad thing is that tomorrow never comes. For these beggars and wretches in India, they have no choice. It’s a tragedy to witness their lot and their potential lost.
But how much greater is the potential lost, when the greatest obstacle is apathy?