PHOTO: Food and Drink Vendors at Assi Ghat in Varanasi, India

Boys at Assi Ghat in Varanasi, India, prepare to sell food and drinks to visitors who come to the ghat for the evening Fire Purifying Ceremony

Many of India’s nearly nearly three billion residents struggle on a daily basis to eek out an existence. Poverty is endemic and there are not enough jobs to go around. The government has increased social services to the most at-risk members of society, but the amount spent on social safety nets is still less than one percent of the country’s GDP, according to the Word Bank. Creativity and ingenuity, along with a willingness to work hard, are required in this type of environment. These young men have all three.

I met the trio at Assi Ghat in Varanasi, India, one of the most popular gathering places on the banks of the Holy Ganges River. Each night at dusk, they carry huge steel pots filled with sweet tea to the Aarti Fire Purifying Ceremony, performed for thee benefit of tourists. I watched as they wound through the crowd, hawking their drinks for a few Rupees – a pittance to most tourists. Most ignored them, but occasionally someone made a purchase. It couldn’t have amounted to much in the way of income, but I had a strong feeling that their nightly earnings meant the difference between eating and starving.

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