My son is a star.
Not because he will call out anyone who shows the slightest smidge of racism or “genderism.”
Not because he represented (with passion and conviction) the country of Algeria at the recent Model United Nations in Dubai.
And not because his final school project is to argue for the end of gender segregation in the middle and high school classes at AISA.
David Beauregard Nicholls is a star for the following reason:
In preparation for our upcoming trip to India (tomorrow), David and I have spoken at length about what we want to see: The Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi; and the Taj Mahal in Agra. We’ve also spoken about the things we may not want to see: extreme poverty and suffering.
I visited India in 1989 and was stricken by what my eye could not avoid. In fact, I still can’t get one image out of my head, even two decades later: dozens up dozens of limbless beggars lined up along the water channels leading up to Humayun’s Tomb. (I believe they no longer are allowed to beg on the premises as per the picture on the right.)
I researched Leprosy Colonies in Delhi. And I discovered that there are more than 30 located in the sprawling city — they’re even marked on maps. And while leprosy has “officially” been eliminated in India, paradoxically there are 130,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
I sent an email to the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (see website here) and inquired about visits and donations.
Its kind of you to think of people affected with leprosy. There are several colonies in Delhi where leprosy affected people and their families reside and we could certainly arrange for you to visit one of these. I am however a little reluctant to encourage this because as a lot of visitors do so and very generously also make donations, it has only served to enhance their dependence on alms and donations…When you and your son go to the colony you will in all likelihood be surrounded by people asking you for funds and looking for what you have brought for them. I suggest that you donate a meal which the colony organization can arrange for. If you are interested then I can ask the colony association for an idea of what it would cost. Also, if it is your and your sons first visit to India it might be taking on a lot and need to be prepared to see a not so pretty picture……
Oh. Major reality check. I wrote back to Vineeta Shanker and said that we would definitely donate a meal, but I would check with my son about actually visiting a Colony.
David has been very nervous about going to India because he knows about the poverty and suffering there. He’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t even want to go. But I feel strongly that he should experience India, and see the Taj Mahal — which is considered by many to be the greatest monument to love ever built. It’s important for me to see the structure again because it meant so much to my father. (This is a picture of Beau with my mom at the Taj sometime after I was born.)
Last night, just before bed, David and I had THE TALK. Not the one about the birds and the bees, but the one about visiting a Leprosy Colony in Delhi.
“David, I wanted to run something by you,” I began. “When we go to India on Thursday, we have a chance to visit some special people. I have been in contact with an organization that can arrange for us to spend some time at Leprosy Colony. What do you think of that idea?”
“MOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” he screamed. “THEY AREN’T A TOURIST ATTRACTION. IT ISN’T A MUSEUM!!!!!!!”
David was right. And his response jolted me back to my right mind. Going to India was one matter. Going to Leprosy Colony was another — and one best left to those who have work to do there.
Besides, being in India is challenging enough without adding another layer of heartbreak. Especially for a young man whose heart is always in the right place.