YES (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study) Abroad student Hannah Heyworth won a national competition in India on creative writing celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. Her poem, attached below, is amazing. Congrats to her and her beautiful prose. She is a very talented young writer.

However – my “outrage” comes on multiple fronts. First is that ONLY 173 students entered in a national competition open those 16 – 21 years of age and a median age of 26.2. Any single school alone should be able to produce 173 entries – not the second most populated country in the world. How is this possible that this competition is both so poorly advertised to students as well as valued enough for students to participate and enter. Again – finding numbers on India’s population demographics can be hard but according to UNICEF there are nearly 243 MILLION Indians between the ages of 10-19. Compare that number again with 173 total entries.

Second, if it’s a national competition – and this is by no means showing any disrespect to Ms. Heyworth – why would you award, or even open up the competition, to anyone who is not Indian. And not like how I’m “indian” but students who are full-time living in India. I can only imagine the outrage if a visiting student were to win an essay contest here in the US. Oh to once again not value your own students.

Again – Ms. Heyworth’s poem is fantastic and very much worth being read. Here it is:

“Modern Chennai in the Eyes of Charles Dickens”
It was the best of places, it was the worst of places,
It was a city, a metropolis difficult to constrain to rhymes,
It was a shining example, it was subpar at best,
Poverty, shouting, pollution, crowds, but lest
I forget! Also the peace and tolerance of a diverse people,
Where in one direction is a mosque, temple, and steeple.
An unforgiving climate, and an abundance of dust,
But where to sample the local cuisine is a must,
A historic language curving over tacky neon signs,
Yet carved as well into ancient ruins in poetic lines,
A history of colonialism, exploitation, and trade,
But where the colorful traditions shall never fade.
A conservative place, where time runs slower,
But do not assume a place where any development is lower,
A quiet, bustling place, an old-fashioned and modern place,
A place where ancestral homes and condos fill adjoining space,
This bundle of contradictions, my friend, this tumble of culture,
Is no decaying town circled by desertion and abandonment- those vultures!
This is a city, reborn a thousand times with only improvements.
This, my friend, is Chennai.

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