The Big Brown Bear - My Family Travels

Maneuvering and traveling the streets of Mumbai are extremely challenging tasks to accomplish. Imagine trying to evade the potholes, deranged auto-rickshaw drivers, and cows, all while carrying a gigantic stuffed animal. It is 105 degrees: scorching by my standards, making the 60 pound toy feels as if I was Atlas carrying the world on my shoulders. The reason I am blithely receiving dirty looks for blocking an intersection with an obscenely large stuffed animal? For an orphanage known as Snehasadan.


Over the summer, my father was travelling to India for business and I decided to go along. The plane ride was 18 hours long, during which I alternated between reading A More Perfect Constitution and watching Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. After what felt like an eternity of travelling, we reached the most populous city in India a minute after midnight.

By pure chance, I stumbled upon Snehasadan. After spending a mere 30 minutes there, I knew exactly where I would be passing the rest of my time in Mumbai. Run by the gentle Father Fonseca Placido, Snehasadan, serves as a haven for children lost in the streets of Mumbai. Snehasadan is like a large distantly related family of about 35 children, all under one roof, where children can live with complete freedom and a sense of belonging that gives them each the self-respect and place in society they deserve.

Every day, I was surprised by the connections that I shared with the people there- even though we lived on opposite sides of the world. The similarities included the love of dance that I shared with Rani, the love of movies that I shared with Swetha, and even the love of Leonardo Dicaprio that I shared with Anita.  The first two days I went there, a young girl known as Priya used to shy away since I was the new girl. However, one day when I was visiting, she was outside playing with the dog, Buster. It was Friday and that was the official movie night, so I asked her why she wasn’t inside with everyone else. She responded because Buster wasn’t allowed inside and he might get lonely.  I sat down next to them and told her that I would miss the movie too. In my broken Hindi, I told her about my dog Sunny and how much of a troublemaker she is. She laughed and then finally opened up to me about her life. She was 7 years old and had an older sister that lived in Indore. We sat outside for the entire 2-hour long movie and when I left to go back home, she was the one who gave me the biggest hug.

I saw and recognized a part of myself in every single girl living there.  Even though our lifestyles differ and our behaviors vary, we are ultimately all the same. Snehasadan is shining example of humanity and is the home of a 60-pound stuffed animal, welcoming visitors as they enter the patio.

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