Very often in the nightmare that Delhi traffic has become, one can see ambulances flashing their lights and blaring their sirens to no avail. Many times other vehicles could slow down and move aside and give them way but somehow they don’t. The ambulance just has to wait or follow the traffic.
In other countries it is not so. As soon as one hears the sirens of an ambulance, traffic slows down and a way is cleared for the ambulance. I have often wondered why we in India do not do so. Are we inured to the pain of others? Have we become so insensitive that the life of another does not concern us? Or is life so dispensable that one more or one less does not really matter?
Yesterday a little boy died because his ambulance got stuck in a jam. However this was not a traffic jam but one created by workers of two political parties who clashed with each other. No one heard the blaring siren or I guess no one bothered to hear it. No one gave a hoot to the plea of a mother whose child was dying. Finally the little boy reached the hospital too late.
Then do add fuel to the fire, this tragic human incident was used by the two parties as political fodder as they engaged in a blame game that quite honestly made me want to throw up.
One wonders who is actually responsible for this little life ‘s demise and sadly one finds no answer.
The silence is deafening.
The last few posts have been grim and and bleak so I thought that one needed to share some happy times, and no one can compete with our dear Popples when it comes adding a ray of sunshine to one’s life.
After almost two years Utpal came home for his Rakhi break. Home this time was not mine but his mom’s room in our newly set women’s centre where Jhunnu now lives. In her room were his preferred toys and in her cupboard his clothes! The fridge has his favourite goodies and his mom cooked him a meal after 2 years.
Utpal’s joy was palpable and his excitement knew no bounds. He even went shopping with his mom as he did before, but this time his mom was healed and whole.
I was invited to tea and he set out bringing me one treat after the other. I could barely hold back my tears as I watched this brave little soul make up for lost time. At one pint he came to me and asked me for some money as he wanted to buy some chips. I gave him a twenty rupee note that was a little soiled. He looked at it and gave it back saying in a serious tone: give me a wet one! He did get another crisp one and I just hid the soiled note in the corner of my bag where it still lies.
A report based on government data for the period 1994 – 2004 reveals the startling fact that over 800 million people or 75% of India’s population lives on a per capita income of less than 2o rs a day. The report goes on to say that a person whose consumption is less than rs 9, is below the poverty line, whereas Rs 13 makes him above that line.
The report is startling and even if it not 100% correct, it still raises many questions that need to be asked. We have heard of India shining, India poised, India on the threshold of becoming a super power and yet if we peruse the statistics of this report we see that India shines only for under 30% of its population.
In recent days I have heard some other startling figures that are also a reality: a 4 bedroom flat rented at 500 000 rs a month, a bottle of vintage champagne sold at rs 50 000 a piece in an upmarket eatery which is the actual mecca for the young rich of our capital and where a few such bottles are sold every night, and even a never to be advertised gourmet menu in a luxury hotel at a mind boggling price. You just have to flip the pages of any women’s magazine to see shoes and bags at 50 000 or more, and cosmetics that would burn a hole in your pocket, not to mention the cryptic price on request appended to many a luxury items.
The new, or rather suddenly rediscovered urban laws that are being applied with new found vigour will result in swelling the quoted 70% as most of these hit the livelihood of the poor: street food, small shops etc. Slum relocation undertaken without viable options and with the aim to make our capital city fit for consumption for the forthcoming sports show will have a similar effect.
The writing is on the wall but no one is willing to look at it. No self respecting nation, let alone a democracy, can arrogate itself the right to be called shining if more than 50% of its population barely eeks out a living. As I have often held there are two Indias: one that maybe shines and another that lives in ever increasing darkness.
Many incidents of incomprehensible and inhuman rage made the headlines in recent days. On each occasion I held on to my urge to react as I felt that my words would have no or little effect. However the pictures aired yesterday on all leading channels broke my resolve.
It was a story from a small town in Bihar where the mob decided to met out their own brand of justice to a young thief. What was disturbing was the fact that the police played to the gallery and tied the poor boy to a motorcycle and dragged him in full public view. All his was aptly captured on camera by a local journalist. Nobody reached out to help the boy. For those three hours all that holds a society together and protects it – the rule of law – was conveniently forgotten! From being the largest democracy in the world, we had travelled back in time to the middle ages or the roman arenas.
In the recent past there have many incidents that have brought to fore the latent anger and rage that seems to reside in apparently sensible people waiting for the slightest reason to break free. A young school girl is beaten by six teachers for having failed to do her homework. A young boy is beaten to death by his classmates for having soiled a shirt. A man is beaten to death for simply not giving way to a passing motorcyclist.
These are only some of the ugly incidents that have made their way as headline news. The reality was one has to face is that as a society we are giving up the rule of law and resorting to wild west ways. And when law makers or protectors resort to such ways too, then it is the beginning of the end.
One needs to stop and try and analyse the reasons that have led us to this day. And as is oft the case, the sated cliches come to mind: corruption, politicisation of institutions, arrogance of the rich and more of the same. But to this we also need to add frustration, lack of opportunities, impossible aspirations and the lure of riches, not to forget the now jaded caste and creed.
To add to the plethora of baffling realities one wonders why a district official gets suspended for not recognising the Chief Minister’s voice on the phone or why a cop gets suspended for hugging a cinestar convict. In spite of our democratic cloak, are we not atavistically feudal and thus resort to our feudal selves at each provocation.
Think about it.
Our lohar friends have always held a special place in our hearts. We have known them for over 7 years and have been impressed by their wise ways and their humane qualities more than once.
In the last few months we saw a sharp decile in the number of children attending pwhy classes. True that many had graduated to secondary school but even then the drop seemed bewildering. We held counselling sessions with both children and their parents, coaxed and cajoled and even chided them. But to no avail.
Then it struck us that maybe 6 years of the same repetitive pattern had taken its toll on their free wandering nomadic spirit. It was time for a change. Our formidable administrative duo of R and S came up with a brilliant idea: evening classes. And boy it worked!
From 5 to 7pm our little blue tent is filled to the brim with little heads, both boys and girls, and the once unruly and rowdy lot have turned into a bunch of serious students. Sometimes it takes just a tiny to change to achieve miracles.