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Student witnesses poverty, death in India

  • Story Highlights
  • Student teams travel to India to raise awareness of oral cancer and water
  • USC fellows invited to join ceremony held by the Deshpande family
  • Student begins to understand "the inescapable poverty" in Hubli people's lives
  • Young man lies dead in street, student wonders about his family
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By Kimberly Lewkowitz
Special to CNN
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Editor's Note: CNNU is following two student teams from the University of Southern California as they work to improve the quality of life in India. One team, Water and Health, is working to provide pure water. Kimberly Lewkowitz, a student from USC, is part of that team. The following is a column she wrote for CNNU about her experience. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN or its affiliates.

(CNN) -- The USC fellows were invited to join 1,000 or so others at an incredible ceremony and event held by the Deshpande family for their son, a graduate of MIT.

Residents in downtown Hubli often walk and ride their bikes to get around, sometimes barefoot despite mud.

We felt honored to be a part of such an experience and blessed by the many opportunities we have already been given as Deshpande Fellows. (The firework show alone replicated one of Disneys!)

After a weekend of festivities, I came home to unwind, and decided to head to Downtown Hubli to run some errands.

It was in this particular adventure that I began understanding the inescapable poverty in the Hubli people's lives.

Walking in the streets of downtown, Christine and I received much attention. Peppered between the few "hellos" and curious looks from the townspeople, we absorbed the unfamiliar sight of poverty.

The townspeople walked barefoot in the muddy streets, carrying hefty baskets on top of their heads. Countless unsupervised children darted back and forth, some on rusty bikes, others in the hands of other siblings.

By the time we found the supplies we needed, I was ready to leave.

Ascending the street to find a rickshaw to take us back to our hostel, we came across something I never expected. A crowd of people had gathered around someone.

As we approached we saw his feet surrounded by flies. He was lying face down. My feet led me through the crowd as I knocked elbows with many spectators. I had passed the scene, yet my eyes pulled me back.

I looked over my shoulder not wanting to see what I was about to, but needing to know he was just hurt. His head was pressed against the wet gravel, his eyes glazed over. The young man, no older than me, rest alone. Dead.

I left the scene with what felt like a block weighing down on my chest, still wondering where his family is.

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