I don't know

The other day, on my way to work, I passed a flyover under which there are usually a few poor people clustered, many of whom rush out and start begging as soon as the traffic lights turn red. That day, there was a bigger crowd than usual, several families in fact, men, woman, children and babies. One of the babies, a girl between 7-9 months old was rolling about on the brick floor of the space, howling at the top of her baby voice, loud enough for her voice to pierce through my closed car window. She was crying as if in agony for something, rolling from side to side across that floor. And not one of the many adults clustered around her so much as turned, paused their conversations to even look at her. One of the ladies had a bamboo pole about 10 feet long and used it to nudge the baby farther away from her. The many children under that flyover didn’t blink an eye, didn’t turn to look. No one seemed to have felt an urge to pick up that baby, to hold her close and comfort her, to find out what she wanted. I don’t know what to think about the incident, it keeps haunting me. I used to think my kids were pampered because they have a nice home and good clothes, toys and books…but maybe they are pampered because they have people in their lives who will listen, who will hear them crying, who can’t bear to see them in pain. I think back to the juvenile in the Dec 16th case and wonder if he grew up in a similar environment, whether he grew up in a home that never taught him anything but self preservation and survival by any means…whether he never knew what it means to have compassion, empathy because he had never experienced it himself. I don’t know if …contrary to whatever claptrap the movies sold us about the nobility in poverty, it leads to such a dominant survival instinct that you only care about yourself and no one else, maybe not even your own children.. …this weeping child was even theirs or was it just a convenient orphan picked up to ease begging… …I have turned cynic or biased onlooker…

Comments

Tazeen said…
Thanks Priyae for writing this, it is such scenes that really bothered me in Delhi! The disparities were too much and then you also wonder if she is ignored because if her gender!!!
bird's eye view said…
Tazeen - yes, I wondered if it was gender or just the fact that living like that beats all the humanity out of you
JLT said…
I totally get what you felt. Sometimes I look at the kids at the Blr crossroads and think the same. But even within them, some kindness does exist. Last month in Delhi again, I was moved to see a 8-10 yr old girl who got given an apple from somewhere. She was in rags and clearly not well fed. She bit delightedly into the apple. And then she called out to another kid, a toddler across the road. She bit once more into the apple, and handed over the rest to the younger kid.
At that moment, I felt so ashamed and kind of guilty over my being better off. But then the cab for the green signal and we zoomed off.
I always wonder at how the kids of the road handle their responsibilities. At how starkly different the environs of my kid are. We have much to be thankful for.

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