The train pulls out of the Chennai’s station and into the early morning sunlight. I am exhausted, it has been a long night. With my heavy backpack on my shoulders, I sit uncomfortably on a second class seat. There are Indians everywhere on the train; some are fast asleep while others are gazing quietly out the windows. I close my eyes. I desperately need rest.
Soon however, I am awakened by a horrid smell. The stench is so unbearably awful. I open my eyes. As the train, continues to roar down the tracks, I stare with disgust at the fields of waste. There is filth everywhere. It seems like a abandoned dumpsite. I am wide-awake now and what I see next makes my heart sink with pity. From behind the huge piles of trash, I see dark figures slowly emerging. They look like shadows to me.
They are the shadows of Indian society, the forgotten people, the unfortunate, the poor. They live in the slums, next to the train tracks and dumpsites. As I see the slums now, I begin to wonder how many people live in the slums? How dirty and crowded it must be. How hard it must be to wake up every morning, in such an unpleasant environment. With barely any shelter, food, or possessions, what kind of life can one really live? Could there ever be any happiness in living such a life? I close my eyes again. All this is too disturbing for me to see.
However, with my eyes shut, I still cannot stop thinking about the slums and its people. How could the rich justify living happily, when their fellow brothers and sisters are rotting away in misery? Why isn’t the government trying harder to help the poor? Shouldn’t this be the first priority of this nation? Perhaps, I don’t understand the complexity of India’s affairs and problems. But what I do understand is, something is really wrong, and changes need to be made.
This is Harmandir Sahib, better known as the “Golden Temple” in Amritsar, India. It has become a holy place of worship for Sikhs. And, it is remarkably beautiful. I absolutely had a lovely experience visiting this sacred site. The moment I stepped inside the temple area, I was overcome by a sense of serenity and happiness. Aside from the mellow sounds of prayer, the water and massive space surrounding the temple created a very soothing atmosphere. It was a haven away from the hectic narrow and chaotic streets of Amritsar.
Dedicated Sikh worshipers line up in an orderly fashion to have the chance to enter and pray inside the Golden Temple. The inside of the temple was just as beautiful as the outside, only much more crowded. Worshipers sat on the floor, chanting hymns and praying passionately.
Amazingly, free food and drinks are provided to anyone who enters the temple area. The Sikhs have a strong community of dedicated worshipers, who volunteer their time to make food, clean dishes and do other chores around the temple. The above photo shows worshipers, peeling and cutting onions. I was impressed at how the Sikhs worked together so harmoniously and efficiently. It appeared that everyone did whatever they could to help out their community and keep the Golden Temple a very special place.
We stayed at the Golden Temple for the whole day. Experiencing the Golden Temple at night was also a treat. The temple’s reflection in the water looked stunning at night.
These Indian women work very hard to diligently pick tea leaves at the tea plantation sites in Darjeeling, India.
After touring the nearby Happy Valley Tea Estate, I learned that a great amount of effort is put forth not only by the women picking the tea leaves outside, but also the workers who work in the tea factory. It was a very educational trip that left me with a deeper appreciation for tea. By the way, the green tea I drank in Darjeeling was wonderful!
These talented artists prepare for their upcoming Kathakali dance performance in Fort Kochin, Kerala, India.
Aside from the elaborate costumes and make-up, the actual dancing was very impressive. This was one of the most entertaining and memorable dance dramas, I have ever seen. I was amazed by how the artists used only body movements and specifically their eyes, to tell the entire story. What is the most memorable dance performance you have seen?