Winner for Best Travel Writing

Solas AwardsI am excited to report that an excerpt from the book, titled Lost and Found, won the Bronze prize in the Family Travel category for the Solas Best Travel Writing Awards 2009, sponsored by Travelers Tales.

Click here to read the story and view more about the awards; a short excerpt is below:

Lurching along the dirt road, I gazed out the window at rural Orissa in northeastern India as the car bounced over potholes, sending plumes of red dust billowing behind it. The small villages we passed were as familiar to me as if I had been there only last week. The shacks that lined the river, their plastic or tar paper roofs held down with rocks. The smell of curry and incense hanging thick in the air. The tiny shops and vendor stalls selling sarees or pots or candies, the mangy dogs and cows nosing at piles of trash, the rickshaw drivers pedaling through traffic alongside schoolgirls with their braided hair and backpacks. People seemed to fill every square inch of space. It was exactly as I left it a year ago.

I glanced at my daughter sitting next to me, trying to gauge her feelings. She was looking out the far window with eager eyes. It wasn’t the street life passing by that had Chandler enthralled; although it was her first trip to India we had been traveling in the country for over a week, and she had grown familiar with the scene outside the window. Like me, she was excited to be on our way to the orphanage, at last. The reason we were here in the first place; the reason I brought my fifteen-year-old child halfway around the world. To spend a week with a hundred children at the Miracle Foundation home who had captured my heart the year before. My desire to bring my own daughter to this place, this experience, had led us to this moment.

I turned my head back toward the passing palm and ashoka trees, and the river glittering in the afternoon sun. Questions ricocheted silently inside me. What would the kids look like? Would they have changed? Would they remember me? What would Chandler’s reaction be? Then we were pulling through the gates into the ashram. The large open space in the middle of the compound was empty, no one there to meet us. I realized they weren’t yet expecting us. We climbed out of the car and started up the little pathway that led between buildings to the interior courtyard.

One by one, they began to spy us; I saw little brown faces peeking out around corners and through bushes. Slowly the ashram came to life. Word of our arrival spread and dozens of grinning, jumping children surrounded us on the path and poured into the courtyard. Within seconds I was engulfed by barefoot children grasping for my hands and clambering over each other to smile up at me. Ten feet away, yet separated by twenty bodies bouncing between us, Chandler also stood with several kids holding each hand and more clinging to her arms, her pale skin and long blonde hair almost lost in the sea of them. She knew many of them on sight, familiar with their stories and the pictures that line the walls of our house. The amazement on her face made her look even younger than her fifteen years.

“Hello,” “Welcome,” “Good Evening,” the children greeted us. Small hands reached for me. There was Santosh! And Daina, Mami, Sumi…I picked up the tiny ones like Salu and searched for other faces I hadn’t seen yet. Children ran up to show me small things I had given them the year before – stickers, crayons, hair clips. They displayed these cherished treasures; such simple possessions, so proudly owned and taken care of. They asked for nothing from me other than being there. In many ways they were just like other children with homes and families of their own – except for their neediness, their raw hunger for affection, love, belonging.

They had been imprinted on my soul forever.

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About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

Posted on March 4, 2010, in India and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. hi shelley,

    just read your book ‘weight of silence: invisible children of india.’

    i’ve been to india a few times and my last visit i stayed at an HIV orphanage for kids. the children have a piece of my heart and i am wondering what the next step is. they got me thinking about all the other children living in the streets of india and i came across your book. thank you for taking the time to learn more and share your experiences with us.

    my question: i was wondering if you knew how i could watch the full films of sahiful mondal?

    thanks,
    soojin

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