Winter was at its zenith in Delhi on 31st Dec 2009 night. I was returning from Noida to Delhi in my office bus. I saw a few blue coloured polyethylene tents on roadside and flames coming from cooking stoves. Soon I realised that those tents were occupied and the dwellers inside were cooking food for their last dinner of the year and of course, the decade. At that night, when most of the readers of this article were in celebration mood, those people were not sure whether they would brave chilly winter winds of Delhi and would be alive to welcome the new year.
Sensitive nerves of my brain were jolted. We feel the fiery winter bite even though we are well protected by cemented walls of our rooms and ensconced inside our ‘Cosy Korean Blankets’. But these people on pavements give an open challenge to the tingling winds of January. And in their armour, you can find just a few blue polyethene sheets, a couple of dilapidated blankets and semi filled stomach with negligible nutrient contents.
Why this contrast of destiny to citizens of the same city? Why?
In another scenario, on the very next day, the auspicious 1st January 2010, I went to meet my sister who also lives in Delhi with her husband and their four years old daughter. I was touched by their concern to protect their child from cold though she was fully covered by woolen clothes from ‘Monkey Cap’ at head to ‘Woolen Socks’ on feet. It is natural for parents to take extra care of their babies in winter. So after spending two full days there, I was returning to my place by Blue Line bus, the famous ‘Killer on Delhi Roads’. The drizzle had added more woes to commuters who were already struggling with the densest fog of the season.
Oblivious of the plight of bus driver and unfazed of inhospitable weather conditions outside, I was making full use of my window seat. I was peeping into the modern beauty of Delhi. Then at a traffic signal, I saw a girl who was probably five years old. She was holding a circular ring to show her acrobatic skills. She was begging for money from a biker with two pillion riders in front of the Police though our Government has banned the act of begging. Begging scenes like this at traffic signals are not unusual in Delhi. But what jolted my sensitive nerves again, were her bare feet. The five year old was standing barefooted on the rain soaked road in such chilly winter evening. I was deeply shocked to see this pitiful condition. Many thoughts crossed my mind like if she was insulated from cold, if cold has different levels of impact on different people?
But the most contrasting and ironical were the two pairs of feet, one of which was of my niece whose feet were under constant caring eyes of her parents, who were not letting her step out of blanket without her socks. And the other one was this girl whose feet were bare. Her parents were not at all concerned whether she was wearing anything on her feet. Their only concern was to count the money she would beg after showing her acrobatic skills to commuters at traffic signals.
Why such an extreme contrast of destiny to kids of same age group? Is it just because one is born to a well-to-do family and the other to seasoned beggars?
Though these kids are born to destitute parents and are compelled to beg at such a tender age, our Government or We as human can not ensure a better childhood to them. Can’t the Police prevent these parents from forcing their kids into begging? Can’t we ensure them the minimal needs of their childhood? Though dwellers of blue tents are born with pitiful fates, can Government or we as fellow citizens of the same country bring some better viable accommodation to those people for whom winter is nothing but a curse and the New Year is nothing but just another day to survive.
I wish I won’t see such dismal and disheartening conditions of our kids at traffic signals on next new year.
This article is written by Kunal Thakur. He is working as a Senior Software Engineer in Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).