The first stop on our sightseeing trip through Mumbai was the Taj Mahal Tower & Palace Hotel near the Gateway of India where one of the ten coordinated terrorist attacks in 2008 took place. You can see from the picture I snapped that the Taj is still undergoing significant renovations.
Our guide walked us through the lobby and retold the story of how the terrorists entered the city via a hijacked fishing boat and dispersed to various locations around South Mumbai.
It’s so hard to resist….
Kids come up to you all over the place asking for money or trying to sell you kitschy souvenirs.
“Buy these postcards, 200 Rupees”
They ask for money and gesture with their hand to their mouth signaling to you their hunger. It’s one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever seen. Of course there is poverty in the U.S. but the sheer scale and prevalence of it in India is overwhelming. It’s not necessarily more in your face. It’s the kids, young kids. I know that I probably walk past half a dozen homeless men on my way to the Metro each morning. I don’t, to the best of my knowledge walk past half a dozen street kids every morning.
After some shopping, a group of us stopped to buy some fresh coconut juice from a street vendor. As we were standing around enjoying our drinks a small boy came over and wandered in and out of our group. He looked about a year older than my eldest nephew. He kept looking up at all of us, not asking for anything just looking. He was with a small girl, presumably his sister. It was obvious that they spend their days wandering the busy streets of Mumbai.
At the Ashraya Initiative we learned that the majority of street kids are put out there to make money for someone else and rarely do they ever reap the benefits of anything a person gives them. Even the guidebooks tell you that if you want to help wait until you get back home. Go online and find a charity that works with street kids and make a donation. But damn, that’s easier said than done when you’re standing in front of one of these little boys or girls. I looked at this little boy and couldn’t help but think he should have it better than this. One of my classmates didn’t finish his juice and gave his coconut to the little boy. He stared at it for a while before sipping on the straw.
If your coconut had enough fruit in it the vendor would scoop it out and give it to you in a plastic bag. As we left I realized I had no use for a bunch of fresh coconut so I handed my bag to the little boy and got one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. I don’t have a picture of him smiling but I will never forget the look on the little boy’s face.