The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Beyond The Picket Fence

by Sherryanne De La Boise


My good friend, Grace Ying, was raised in China. She went to California for school and became a teacher. Unlike here, in China, a teacher is a revered position, treated with the highest regard. I met Grace and her husband on a voyage across the top of Russia. Our vessel departed from Norway. After crossing Russia, we parted company in Nome, Alaska. This is her report on India, a country that intrigues me, but I have yet to visit.

An opportunity led me to visit India, a country ripe with culture and history. I had an idea in my head of what it would be like, but the reality was different from my expectations.

The first stop on our journey was the seaport of Mumbai with many attractions such as a Victorian train station, outdoor markets, the arch of India, and museums for fallen hero Mahatma Gandhi and Nobel Laureate Tagore. The timing was perfect as we celebrated Diwali with the local people. Diwali is a Hindu national holiday celebrating the victory of light over darkness in Autumn. It involves a festival of lights where people clean and decorate their houses and exchange gifts. It is as festive as Christmas. Behind all the glamour, there was still darkness. Garbage was strewn everywhere and homeless families with infants slept on the crowded streets. Every night, I had the sad dream that I was cleaning the dirty streets and feeding the homeless and admitting them to shelters.

On my trip, I learned about Hinduism. Citizens won't kill animals as it is bad karma. Based on their beliefs, if you kill an animal, you will be reincarnated as that animal in the next life. I saw cows laying in the center of the highway, pigeons resting in palaces, and monkeys jumping up and down along the houses. In India, Human beings and animals coexist in harmony.

An accident happened during the plane ride from New Delhi to Agra. The pilot announced that our flight must return to New Delhi due to mechanical problems. I asked my husband to please hold my hand. 3,300 feet above the ground with the plane shaking, I felt secure by my husband's side. An amazing thing was that all the Indian passengers were calm and peaceful with no complaints or noise. Reincarnation and good karma can ease the spirits. When the plane touched down, I saw engineers and ambulances lining up for our arrival. My husband and I were safe and sound.

The Taiji Mahal in Agra has always been my dream place to visit. It is a white marble mausoleum that emperor Shah Jahan constructed in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tourist guide told us that she had difficulty giving birth to their third child. On her death bed, she requested him to promise three things: Never marry again, build a tomb for her, and take care of their children. All my fantasies about their love story disappeared. I thought the Emperor was willing to build a monument for his wife out of undying love, but it was her last request on her death bed.

If you ask me if I will visit India again, the answer is a resounding No. The richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, lives in a 14 story luxurious glass house while the poorest people live in hellish conditions a mere block away. I can not bear that truth of inequality.

I pray for the best for the Indian people and hope a great leader like Mahatma Gandhi will lead them to a better tomorrow.

Grace Ying