Just like any other research students, we were also asked to survey slums, the most visible expression of poverty in urban areas. At that point of time, the idea seemed very exciting. Little did we know that the experience would be so heartbreaking and overwhelming, both at the same time.
The moment we entered into the slum clusters, on and between the gutters, it was like being transferred into another portal where it seemed impossible to live. The spaces were so little, that even a bit increase in my waist size would make walking through them an unachievable task. Everything was dark and dirty. There was water clogging in one space, fungus forming in another. Heaps of garbage were lying around, welcoming us with their distinct variety and gracious aroma. There were huge cliques of mosquitoes and flies, having a gala time. In short, the condition was pathetic and terrific.
Eventually, after a while, we just got over it. We moved on from house to house (if I can call them so, with their sheer size) interrogating people about their lives. Some were really welcoming, while others were uncooperative. It was as if they already knew that we were just another bunch of kids who will ask few questions in the pretext of helping them and in the end do nothing. They kept on asking us, if we will give them money or the government promised housings, on that our answers would unfortunately just be a forced sorry smile. While deep inside, we would just feel helpless and tad bit annoyed.
The saddest part was that there were many people who just stood there simply accepting their miserable fate. Many of them didn’t even bother to ask why we were asking them questions as such, and went on answering with honesty dripping off their face.
I couldn’t help but wonder if we are in a way insulting them?
Many of us go there and assure them, that our collected data will be sent forward to the government and the policy makers for improving their lives, but who are we kidding? We dexterously shower them with false hopes and expectation of a new beginning and a new life, and then in the end, we shamelessly go and sleep in our well furnished house. Yeah, there is no denying that they already know about the futility of our exercise but they still answer us.
Why? I wonder!
Is it because of the trivial human behaviour case? We humans gladly come forward to perform a task where we think there is nothing to lose but in rare cases, there might be a slight possibility of gain (lottery maybe?). The slum dwellers know that we might do nothing but if, just if we are successful enough in highlighting their predicament they might be slightly better off.
I don’t know what the real answer is; all I know is that I would hate being the victim of somebody’s study where I will have to shed my time and information just to be fed lies.
When I see out there,
All I observe is a cruel world,
Mocking people with more than one can usurp,
There is pain, There is suspicion,
There is feeding on someone else’s emotions.
I stand here feeling guilty of the same,
Every time I laughed on somebody else’s weakness,
I lost a part of myself, my integrity,
Deep inside I knew it was wrong,
But for some unfathomable reason I carried on,
I feel the misery in me, asking me to promise to never do it again.
But I fear that tomorrow I might end up commenting,
on somebody else’s attempt to try something new,
Maybe a new language or a skill to speak of few.
Or that I might end up mocking somebody else’s petty flaws,
As I desperately hide my own imperfections behind the shallow laugh.
I fear that I will fail to understand how hard one is trying to fit in and to be right,
Not realizing their predicament or how my comment would affect.
Maybe, because of me they would stop trying and I’ll be guilty for life.
It’s a mystery to me how we feel honored in somebody else’s grim?
But who am I to speak?
As I happen to be guilty of the same time and again.
Once a fierce competitor,
Now a broken mess.
It was the inability to let go of the insecurity,
Which led to utmost incompetency.
The paragon of light,
Stood there smiling bright,
There was an unusual twinkle in her eyes,
Making you question,
‘Whether she was high? ‘
She had the laughter which lingered in the air,
A little too longer to not care.
In darkness too, she would shine.
Making you wonder,
‘ Whether she was high? ‘
Many went and questioned her the same,
She laughed it off, but couldn’t help feeling a little disdained.
Those poor souls didn’t have it in them,
The euphoric feeling of life without being high.
She sadly sighed with a frown,
Which no sooner got replaced by a huge happiness crown.
I’m sitting here wondering why didn’t I feel outraged after reading this news? Where is my anger? Am I insensitive to everything that’s going around me now? Maybe i am, because such news don’t even come as a shocker, it’s like I was expecting them to happen somewhere, just as normal as I’m expecting sun to be rising somewhere at this time.
Whenever I read about illegality of abortion, I know that the provision is of no great use. When I read about dowry prevention act, I feel no great relief. When I get to know that there is something as wage equalisation act too, I just laugh it out. As I know for a fact that out there exists discrimination in a much more cruel form than what is published in newspapers which is maybe growing everyday in more ways than I know or will ever know.
But Sadly, none of this impacts me and that is what worries me, what if these things have become the new normal? Where we’ve learnt to accept the sheer harsh reality without any outrage or protests?
‘I don’t know if I can do it dad, What if I fail?’
‘Don’t worry even if you fail, at least you will have a story to tell.’
Lose yourself this little while,
In books, poetry, art and smile,
Only to realise what you’ve been missing all this time.