Next – A Vignette

Based on the format of the chapter Next in the novel Sold by Patricia McCormick.

NEXT

As I walk into an alley with rundown houses, moldy walls and the smell of sewage and feces,

Looking at the puddles, cow dung and god-know-what-else on the ground to avoid dirtying my sneakers, next to

A group of people sitting on the back of a decorated truck, craning their necks to get a better look of us, next to

A little boy and a little girl jumping back and forth over a black puddle, the boy slipped and got his left foot wet, next to

An empty yellow rickshaw, next to

A cow leisurely lying in the shade of a tin roof, next to

A woman in a bright pink sari making chai, next to

A girl in a frilly gold dress with no shoes on, next to

A car honking incessantly, next to

A stray dog nosing through a pile of trash, next to

A baby sleeping in his mother’s lap, sweating from the afternoon heat, next to

A woman shouting “Hi!” and waving at us, next to

A boy with a birthmark that takes up a little less than half his face running out and tried to shake my hand, next to

A pump pumping out water contaminated with toxic chemicals, next to

A girl getting water, next to

A clinic treating hundreds of people everyday for free, next to

A man who came to help and never left, next to

A woman quietly grinding herbs to treat people whose bodies have been torn apart by synthetic chemicals, next to

A village where hundreds of people died twenty-nine years ago, next to

A man waking up in the middle of the night coughing his lungs out, next to

A family whose children are being born with deformities, next to

A government powerless to fight for their people, next to

A group of pranksters trying to fix the world, next to

A corporation refusing to even acknowledge what is still happening.

And I wonder,

In this rundown, smelly, cruel, insufferable, ignorant world,

What will happen

next

to me?

Commentary: The moment during our trip that struck me the most emotionally was when we visited the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal. The Bhopal gas disaster happened 29 years ago, but to this day the consequences can still be seen. Over half a million people died, and 150,000 are still suffering from diseases from gas exposure. Dow Chemicals, the company that acquired Union Carbide refused to clean up Bhopal and help the victims. The Indian government cannot do anything to the company because they have powerful supporters in the American government. When we were at the clinic, we met people who have worked incessantly to help the victims and to get Dow Chemicals to take responsibilities. But they are a small group going against a powerful international corporation, and the tragedy is slowly being forgotten by the rest of the world. What I want to deliver with my piece is the reminder that the Bhopal victims are still there, and so is their pain. The gas leakage happened in 1984, but when will the tragedy end?

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