I feel guilty of being privileged sometimes when I see my fellow humans living in absolute human misery and then I can’t stop thinking about this world, where we have adopted capitalism in all means and forms waiting for the trickle-down effect and the redistribution to take place. How much time will it take? Maybe, it will never end, the widening inequality and the injustice experienced by many or maybe it will, but till then what? Will these people stay this way? I am a budding economist, almost a semester away and I know socialism has failed in all ways, and also, that it cannot bring growth and prosperity as they rightly say, but aren’t the resources on this planet meant to be equally shared and distributed? Doesn’t everybody deserve a life where at least the basic necessities are being fulfilled? If that is not happening, I feel that maybe the system is not working and there is an urgency to do something new, to form a new order or whatever. I don’t know, I am too naïve to come up with anything. I can’t even ask people like you and me to do anything because I know it doesn’t work that way. It’s the social order, where there is always more and more that people desire, and even that seems less. We live in our very petty surroundings with people of same social standings and half the time, we don’t know what’s going around or are to nonchalant to care. It’s never enough for anybody and it will probably never be.
All I know is that when I watched this little boy trying to sell balloons on the street, claiming to be hungry. I didn’t want to buy it, not only because it was useless to me but also because I didn’t want to encourage child labor or perhaps some gang which kidnaps such kids for begging as various media sources point out. However, I went ahead and bought it, just because that look on his face was haunting me, the look of sheer distress and poverty. I don’t even know how can I expect him to go to school and study, to improve his condition and go beyond, outside this vicious cycle, because if he doesn’t work today, he will probably have no meal to eat tomorrow. The opportunity cost is high, more than I will ever know.
The other day, this withered woman was walking along with her two small kids, latched tightly to her arms as she begged around, from persons to shops, everywhere. Most of the people were shunning her away, and I couldn’t help but think, what these kids must be feeling, do they even know what dignity feels like? Well, a foolish thought I know, dignity and self-worth comes way up in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Their vision must be clouded with utmost need of hunger and thirst and helplessness.
Also, last year when I was roaming around the slums of Mumbai for my research for a month or so, I couldn’t believe the condition in which mankind lives in and ironically, that was not even the worse. Their condition was much better as many said.
And then today, something weird happened, something both heartwarming and heart shattering at the same time. I met this women at Vile Parle station and she gifted me a key chain. She was the same woman to whom I used to give water daily three years ago until she left the particular spot where she used to sit. She got a job, now she makes jewelry and sells them. It was overwhelming. I forgot her existence and even her face, but she didn’t, maybe because I did more for her than I felt as that task was nothing for me. This made me feel, maybe, little things do bring huge impacts, and sometimes we don’t even know about it. So, we should keep doing whatever we can hoping that it improves somebody’s life even a little until a new social order is formed, or until things change or till destruction takes us all away.
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?
My dad once said, “Life always gives you something, but only if you are receptive enough to take it”
And few days ago, in my third slum visit, I was for once receptive enough to take something from probably nothing.
It was the fourth crammed house in the row; I knocked the door with a smile. The dangling door opened with a creak showcasing a withered woman probably in her 40’s. She was wearing an old ragged sari and a brilliant smile. Her welcoming nature and her twinkling eyes suddenly made me feel at ease. With a lot comfort, I asked her questions, some were borderline uncomfortable as we were surveying their cost of living. She kept on answering them animatedly.
The situation to me looked very grim, with their monthly income just being Rs.10-15k in a family of six. It was even worsened with the loan that they had to repay. I was waiting for her to crib just like other households before, but nothing came. Her answers were surprisingly very genuine and crisp.
When I asked her about the expenditure on food, she laughed and said, “It just happens, who counts.” I requested for an estimate, and she confidently said, “Just how much a middle class household spends.”
I looked up at her in an instant, the look on her face confirmed that she thought herself to be in the middleclass category. My curiosity took hold of me, so I asked, “What about the poor households?”
“They live right across the street on the pavements, they don’t even have shelter can you imagine?”
“Hmm” I replied, guiltily peeping inside her house. There were few kids lying around, with hardly any furniture or appliances on display. There wasn’t even a gas stove, rather a kerosene chullah, responsible for painting the walls pitch black.
Inwardly I smiled; this woman was surely an inspiration to me. She was the real life example of somebody who looks at the better side of life rather than cribbing about the harsh reality. The outlook might not do anything to improve their situation but it would at least make life much more tolerable.
I couldn’t help but feel overly grateful. That day when I stepped in my home, I felt like I stepped into a palace.
This whole week, there were many newspaper articles focusing on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
Truly speaking, this concept of celebration just went beyond me; my petite brain was unable to comprehend the logic behind the celebration of a war. What’s the point of celebrating something which rather than making you better off just ended up making you worse off? War is something which I doubt will ever reap good results.
I read somewhere that “War is the last resort to attain peace,” well; this statement makes a lot of sense. Peace is the ultimatum, war is just an action to destroy the ones who are disrupting your peace, but ironically, isn’t war something which deepens the need of peace? If we scroll through the history, we can evidently see how wars have graved something all new to disrupt the peace and harmony. We cannot deny the fact that wars are mostly indecisive; they come with no good outcome to attain peace even if the objective was the same.
In India’s context itself if we see, the 1962, Indo-Sino war, it left us with the legacy of an unsettled and disputed border which is prone to frequent military confrontations.
The 1965, infamous Indo-Pak war which is being celebrated now, neither brought victory to Pakistan which initiated the war in the Rann of Kutch and later in Jammu and Kashmir nor peace in India which fought back tenaciously after being surprised. It had no decisive outcome either in Jammu and Kashmir or in the relationship between the two countries which is still so confusing.
The 1971 war, it did have an outcome, the creation of a new nation but at what cost? The cost benefit factor here seems negative to me. After all, there is no glory in the battle worth blood as its cost.
This discussion on the outcomes of various wars can go on and on…but the reasons for celebrating it are still beyond me…victory or no victory.