In the absence of bread, the only fodder that goes down the food pipe is Poverty.
Why does a poor even live? Why?
I kept on asking this question as I briskly walked through S.P. Mukherjee marg towards Red Fort while watching the laborers, workers eating their afternoon meal of four chapattis and sabzi at a footpath eatery.
I could barely bear the heat that day. My shirt was completely drenched with the sweat and the Aquafina in my hand doused the throat for as long as possible. I kept on blaming the rain gods and the weather. The people who were having their lunch at the footpath appeared relaxed in the heat. To my amaze, they did not even sweat. Their skins, it seemed had become used to the daily strokes of heat and their bodies had solidified with time. However, Poverty still accompanied them.
That sight made me stop even in the scorching heat. Five men sat in line. Two of them sitting with giant steel pots put against them. The pots contained curry and sabzi. An old man of about 70, wearing nothing but a lungi was busy making chapattis. The gas stove put in front sucked every bit of sweat off his body – which boasted off more of the bones than muscles. He resisted the heat and fought and rolled chapattis as the customers who sat on the small bricks kept for them to sit and eat swallowed one chapatti after the other. Two young chaps were busy chopping the vegetables and their hands were as quick as the barber who was busy cutting the hairs of his customer beside. A kid washed the plates, bowls and other big vessels which were bigger in size than him adjacent to the bus stand.
When they were asked about their homes, the majority of them pointed towards the ‘Rain Basera’ or night shelters built on the other side of the road. Other opined that the footpaths are a better option during the summers. If someday, you get a chance to see these people sleeping at night on the footpaths and road dividers, you will only hope that they do not wake up the next morning. But they do wake up and go to work. Yes, their luck had run out a long time ago but their stomachs had not. It appears sometime that the footpaths are full of dead people, only their stomachs are alive.
Let me not blame the government for their impoverished condition. The government is doing its best. The various food bills have passed in the parliament and some other schemes had been implemented earlier. Also, in the year 2010, in order to prepare of the Commonwealth games, the news bricks were laid upon the footpath and the people who slept on them had a cleaner city. What if it has not brought any change in the lives of the poor in large, it has definitely evoked a hope in them.
There is nobody to be blamed, neither us nor the government. If there is something to be blamed then it is those situations at these people’s home which made them leave their homes and family and come to Delhi in search of a better life. And what did they find? They found the bitter truth that the city told them. The truth that the city had no place for them. If there is some place then it is for the rich.
These poor people were rigid and adamant on their demands too. When they did not get the place and the job for which they left their homes, they made their own place in the city on the footpaths and created their own jobs. It is hard to explain if they adopted the footpaths or the footpaths adopted them.
The menace of poverty is not the absence of food, a shelter, a job. Rather, it is the acceptance of the fact that you will never get any of it ever. When a poor accepts his conditions and begun to feel that the things will never change for him then no government and its scheme can rule out the effect of poverty. Sadly, every time when we talk about it, it only thickens this problem and it is us who on each day are making the poor believe that things will not change. The government shall never eradicate poverty because then they will be not left with a solid issue to win the next elections.
Poverty will never be eliminated from the society and this is the hard truth because the people who have power do not want them to come out of poverty. Two years down the line, the numbers of poor at the footpath along the S.P. Mukherjee road will only rise and also the volume of their cry which will be heard but ignored.
When I moved off from the place, I got my answer in Hari Singh – a battery rickshaw driver words that why a poor even lives.
“A poor man makes the rich have value of their money”
He smiled but I knew these words pained him more than me.