Two Meals A Day
Jan 01 2008
I am posting this article so that it reaches most number of people. It simply showcases the plight of few of the millions of other people to whom every day is a struggle for survival. Things many of us take for granted is a luxury to millions of other people. Be it a warm bed for the night or a jacket. One thing I have told so many people lately is Next time you think life sucks, just take a look around. My sages guide us to keep doing more towards making a difference, as little as it may be, be it remote healing or giving someone a warm meal.
New Delhi, January 1
I wish, me and my four kids get two meals a day in the new year, said Noor Jehan, as she tried her best to cover her children “two boys and two girls” with a pair of gunnysacks and a torn blanket.
For me New Year is another day of survival and sleeping on the roadside. Allah ko pata hai kal kya hone wala hai (Only Allah knows what is in store for me tomorrow), said the 40-year-old woman, who sleeps on a pavement near the Delhi Gate monument that intersects the New and Old Delhi.
While the affluent spent the New Year eve enjoying the midnight revelry in hotels, clubs and homes or watching TV from under their warm quilts, for over 1,40,000 pavement dwellers in the Indian Capital, it was just another day of destitution and struggle for survival.
Jagdish Lal, another homeless person, who huddles under a shop front on Netaji Subhas Marg, said he does not understand the difference between old year and New Year.
Hamare liye kal, aaj sab saman hai. Only rich people enjoy their life and unfortunate people like us shiver in the cold and wait till death, Lal, 56, told IANS, wondering why anyone who would talk to him about it at midnight.
For us every day is a fight for food and survival,â€ he said, as he held the hand of another homeless person with tears in his eyes.
Lal and Noor Jehan are just a few of the tens of thousands of homeless in the national Capital who feel that any special day like “New Year’s, only intensifies their sorrow. In a way they are a stark pointer to the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, as the Indian economy surges with nine per cent GDP growth, marginalising in the process a significant segment of its 1.1 billion population.
It reminds us of our poverty. It reminds of our helplessness and it reminds us of our fight for survival, said Aslam, 62, another pavement refugee.
Aslam, who came here from Agra some 40 years back, has been sleeping on the roadside for over a decade near the Jama Masjid.
Earlier, I used to work in a factory, but after the factory was closed down, I am on the roads, he said while sitting in front of a shop.
A cement sack containing a thin blanket, a couple of half-burnt bamboo sticks and a bundle of bidi (handrolled cheap cigarette) is all he had to fight the numbing cold with on New Year’s eve night, when the city recorded its lowest temperature in five years at 2.6 degrees Celsius.
For Mohammad Khan, 32, Vinod, 22, and Khurshid, 37, three rickshaw pullers in the Paharganj area near New Delhi Railway station, New Year meant another day of wait in vain.
After pulling rickshaws, we sleep on the roadside. Sometime we get food and sometime we manage without it in the night. Last year, on New Year’s day I had no money. I spent the day without even a single piece of roti (bread), said Vinod.
I wish to earn at least Rs 80 a day so that I can feed my three kids. I may stay without it, but how can I tell my four-year-old daughter that she has to spend the day without food, said Khurshid almost in tears.
But there was a bright side to this poignant tale.
Ram Kumar, 7, who sells balloons at a south Delhi traffic signal, said, New Year means more money for me. People purchase balloons from me and my five-year-old sister is selling flowers. I have sold 10 balloons tonight.
One lady gave me Rs 10 but did not purchase any balloon, Kumar said as her sister Saloni ran to another car with a bunch of flowers.
Like always, some pavement dwellers are a little hopeful, if only for the sake of their children.
I want my two kids to study and become officers. Every day, I pray god to give my children a better life, at least they should not live in hunger and sleep on the roadside, said Yuvraj, 29, a physically-challenged beggar, crawling on the sidewalks on two stumps in place of amputated legs. IANS