“Your son has lost it. You gave birth to a fucking idiot.”
My Uncle told my mother, only half jokingly. “Go tell her what you just told me, tell her what you want to go do..”
“I want to go to the slums and live with the poor.” I replied.
She laughed. My Uncle laughed. My Aunt laughed. Even my 10 year old cousin laughed. Everyone laughed…at me. I didn’t understand why.
“You’re joking, right?” My mom said.
My Uncle spoke next and said, “This kid is fucking nuts” as he shook his head from one side to the other…signalling his disapproval. But I didn’t care. I went anyways.
I snuck out through the back, jumped on a rickshaw, and traveled to a poverty ridden slum in India and lived with the poor…for half a day.
It was interesting. The old people looked at me weird. Almost with disgust. Maybe it was because they knew I was a Westerner. Or maybe it was because I decided to wear a Gucci hat to the slums. I don’t know.
I walked past the adults and went and sat with eight or nine kids who wore rags for clothes.
They were seated around their house. Their house was a half broken tent.
It smelled like piss and shit. Lots of piss and shit. I vomited. Now it smelled like piss, shit, and my vomit.
I wiped the vomit off my face and pulled my t-shirt over my nose to keep from smelling the piss and shit and vomit.
“So what do you guys do all day?”
“We beg for rupees (money).” One of the kids replied. He was six, maybe seven. He wore bones for clothes.
“Oh.” I replied.
“Where are your parents?”
I didn’t know what to say. It was awkward. I never know what to say when someone talks about death. I just say, “Oh.”
But the kid smiled. Maybe he sensed my discomfort.
“You want to play football (soccer) with us?” The kid asked with excitement.
We played soccer. We kicked some weird object around. It wasn’t a soccer ball. It wasn’t even round. But it was fun. I felt like I was five years old again.
Then it was dinner time.
But there was nothing to eat. I looked at the other huts and they didn’t seem to be eating either. But nonetheless they were all seated together and were enjoying each others company. A few huts away, a family was singing and dancing like they had no care in the world. I was surprised.
Then one of the kids saw a man in a suit across the street. The kid ran to him like a predator when he spots his prey.
He approached the man in the suit and said, “Can you please give me some rupees (money)?”
“No. Get the fuck out of here, you parasite.” The man replied.
“Please. I am really hungry and I haven’t had food for days. Neither has my sister and brother!” The boy replied with hunger painted on his face.
“Did you not fucking hear me?” The man said as he lifted his hand as a gesture for violence.
The kid came back with his head down.
I retrieved a Mars bar from my pocket and broke it into eight and handed each of them a piece. I kept a piece for myself.
The kid lifted his head and hugged me, the other kids smiled.
Then someone cracked a joke and we laughed.
Food was scarce, but happiness was abundant.
Then my Uncle showed up (apparently my cousin had ratted me out) and he drove me back to his mansion full of maids, servants, and bodyguards. I waved from the car back to the kids like they do in those cheesy Hollywood movies. The kids waved and smiled back as they ran with the car as we drove off.
We were all smiling…except my Uncle. He was fuming with anger. I didn’t understand why. He kept telling me, “People like us are not supposed to rub shoulders with people like them.” That sounded pretty stupid to me. I was laughing and smiling and happy as fuck. That only made him madder.
I boarded my plane shortly thereafter and traveled back to the Western world.
I went to Beverly Hills and sat at Rodeo Drive as I watched people drive their Bentley’s, Ferrari’s, and Rolls Royce’s.
I saw a family of four seated at a fancy restaurant. The table was full of steak, wine, and caviar. But they were arguing. And I could tell the mom was sad. Her ears wore diamonds that were bigger than my face, but her mouth wore a frown that was sadder than a man who just got left at the altar by the love of his life.
Food was abundant, but happiness was scarce.
Then summer vacation ended and it was time to start middle school.
A week or two into the school year, it was career day.
The teacher called my name and I walked up to the front of the class.
The guidance counselor asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be poor.” I replied.
“Excuse me? You want to be WHAT?” She said as she raised one eyebrow.
“I just want to be happy like the kids in India.”
The class looked confused, including the teacher and guidance counselor.
I smiled and sat back down.