One can always bump into them on Tuesdays just outside the Neelkanth Temple, East Patel Nagar, New Delhi, a few yards away from the steps of the sanctum sanctorum. Comprising mostly of women, the aged and children, this closely huddled up crowd waits anxiously for those who would come seeking the blessings of the Almighty. East Patel Nagar for that matter is a posh neighborhood located in the heart of the capital. After the usual proceedings inside the place of worship, the elite folk have this natural and obvious trait of displaying what I believe is token charity. Well, how would you term the casual distribution of ‘boondi’, mind you that too for a paltry sum of ten rupees, yes, just a handful of it.
But then everyone doesn’t harbor insidious notions, at least not when they seriously intend to reduce the effect of shani or even worse, kaal-sarp dosh! So there you have some of those as well among the spiritual ones who buy a packet of bread and distribute one each among the hapless ones seated there in a neat row. You must be wondering if I have indeed gone nuts! After all sight of beggars in front of the Hindu places of worship is not a new thing. Ever wondered how can something as pious as offering prayers be related to the wimpishness of those for whom every Tuesday brings in a mode of earning a single wheat bread or a few grains of boondi!
The patience of those belonging to the fraternity of a ‘lesser God’ finally pays off when after a day’s hard work they finally tread away towards their destination with polybags full of bread loafs, that would do comfortably for at least a week!
I’m reminded of the lurid details as spelled out by P. Sainath, one of the most revered journalists of India. In an absolute no-nonsense manner which is quintessential to him he exclaimed at one of his lectures how teachers from municipal schools of Mumbai urged him with utmost earnestness to request the government to double the ration of mid-day meal on Mondays. Before you fall into a pool of variegated questions, here’s the factoid laced with besmirching consequence of governance gone awry even after sixty-four years of independence. The reason behind such an odd request of the teachers was that they were not able to teach students on Mondays till 1 pm since the pupils in front of them are individuals starved since the last three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Bizarre it may sound to those who hail from the community of tokenism-thumbs-up but then this is how crude the reality is in most parts of India. Starved bellies can’t be imparted education and thus the teachers were compelled to put forth the strange yet understandable demand.
Then in that case I guess the increasing number of people falling prey to the devil of hunger are a threat indeed to those who move around callously asserting what a grateful act they have done by merely launching ‘n’ number of schemes. The lack of food might have enfeebled them physically but fellas how many of you are aware that the underlying reason of the great Egyptian uprising we witnessed recently in fact owed its origin to the prevalent food crisis.
Our reasons to feel exulted further narrow down when one comes across not-so-long-ago Arjun Sengupta’s contention in the NCEUS (National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector) Report that further removes cobwebs of self-appraisal. The report came forth with the shocking revelation that nearly 79% of workers in unorganized sector live on less than 20 rupees a day.
No wonder then why one comes across hounds of impoverished ones in front of venues like the Neelkanth Temple. That in fact happens to be a mere trailer of another magnum opus by the likes of Satyajit Ray, whom the critics often accuse of showcasing an India lurking in darkness of acute poverty and lack of basic amenities. But then why make an attempt and reach out to pull the hair of Danny Boyle when several Slumdog Millionaires lie unheard in Dharavi, Mumbai; Bhalswa, Delhi; Rajendra Nagar, Bangalore; Mehbullahpur, Lucknow and their counterparts in other major cities and dwellings of modern and utter urbane India. Perhaps the only reason that can be attributed to one’s extreme sense of exhaustion and helplessness is that unlike the Q & A novel by Vikas Swarup, Ram Mohammad Thomas (protagonist) are a rarity in midst of swells of stagnating pools of excreta and swarms of mosquitoes.
But why are you fretting and sweating so much? Finally India has won a match after a long gap, thanks to the wonder boy, Virat Kohli. Assembly elections have just come to a conclusion in five states and the stats could be bewildering indeed for our kewpie puppets from the world of media as much as their chums from the arena of politics. What should be your act of convenience, well, hop on to the nearest temple on another auspicious day and shrug away the effect of evil spirits or fiendish planets by distributing bread or boondi as befalling under your self-gratifying comfort zone.