As I roam the streets of Kamla Nagar every night, my eyes unintentionally falling prey to the lights, my olfactory senses being completely blown by the fancy food joints I pass by, I see some kids. These kids, with carefree smiles on their faces, playing on the streets. They sell an array of daily utilities: from hairbands, belts to fancy posters of English T.V. series: about which I wonder if they even know what they‚Äôve set out to sell; nevertheless, they sell everything, literally anything you can imagine!
Amidst all that exuberant chaos, your eyes are bound to fall on a little girl sitting beside a weighing machine in a dark corner of the street. One day, as me and my friend were passing by that very street, my friend got excited to get her weight measured ( duh!). And there she was, bare feet, standing on that machine and there I was, holding a hand of hers lest she should fall, and with half of the Kamla Nagar slyly smiling at the wonderful sight!
The machine made a tick, and we were at once informed that my friend weighed a good 67 KG. That pretty girl, smiling all the while, asked for the 10‚Çπ fee. My friend had a 20‚Çπ note with her, so she insisted that the girl take the 20‚Çπ itself, owing to how cute she was. But, stern and arduous as the girl was, she refused point blank.
I, at once, was transported 10 years ago, when a very similar incident had crossed paths with me as well. And that incident, actually calling it an incident will be undermining its importance, had pretty much shaped the being I am.
I was in class 6th then , around 10 years of age. What happened was that I had gone to my maternal grandfather‚Äôs (Nana Ji‚Äôs ) house. As is customary in North India, I too was given an amount of 1100/- ‚Çπ when I bade them goodbye.
Now, 1100‚Çπ was one hell amount of money, especially for a kid like me. I was elated, began planning on how will I spend the amount : PlayStation, Video Games and Pastries, the plans knew no bounds.
As I was lost in my fantasy, our car stopped at the red traffic signal. And soon began that tick- tock of the digital clock mounted above so as when it strikes zero, the red light will switch to green.
After around 10 seconds later, somebody knocked at the glass pane. I turned around, and came across a peculiar sight.
A girl of around 15-16 years of age, wearing a yellow salwar – kamiz, carrying an infant who leaned upon her shoulder and having an iron begging bowl in the other hand. It seemed as if she was exhausted mentally as well as well as physically, her cheeks sunken and hunger gleamed in her eyes.¬†Having seen her plight, even before she could say anything to me, I lowered the glass pane and handed her those 1100 ‚Çπ to her.
I don’t know why did I do it, it was quite an impulse, it seemed as if my sentimentality had overpowered every logic that I could think of. My Mom was on the phone, she didn’t notice. (Thank God!).
She seemed quite pleased and walked away smiling.
Though I was disappointed that I would not be able to fulfill all those ‘fantasies’ of mine, I felt a strange contentment as well. That feeling, truly, was something above words‚Ä¶
But to my utter surprise, merely 10-15 seconds would have passed when she stood again before me. She knocked the glass pane and offered me the same money that I had gave her, all without any word.
I whispered her to go away, lest my mother comes to know that I had given 1100 ‚Çπ to a beggar,I should be severely rebuked. I detested. But then she said in her typical slang:
‘‘Rakhlo Bhaiyya. Aaj itna ruppaiyaa ghar Le gayi to kal Ma- Bapu Bolenge ki aur zyada ruppaiyaa Laya kar bheekh maang ke.”
And then she handed over those notes to me and all of a sudden the car started moving. I took my head out of the Window so as to see her and there she stood in the scorching heat of the sun, proud yet disappointed.
And there I had, one of the biggest lessons of my life, in just 60 seconds!
I realised that the things have changed little over the course of the last 10 years. These innocent faces, flamboyant, sometimes dull, can make even the hardest of hearts melt. And when you let yourself be fooled into believing that by giving 10‚Çπ to them or by buying something from them, you’ve actually helped them: destiny laughs because in fact you’ve added to their lord‚Äôs expectations, adding a couple of more fences to their already inescapable jails.
The essence is that these people are caught in a vicious circle of poverty and vote bank politics. People who use them as their vote banks just tend to bring cosmetic changes in their lifestyles but no social upliftment is ever brought about. Ensnared in such an impenetrable trap, they tend to resort to begging, thievery and dark professions. So, providing them monetary help instead of education will just add to their misery in the¬†long run.