A letter

har ek ghar mein diya bhi jale, anaaj bhi ho
agar na ho kahin aisa to ehtejaaj bhi ho

ehtejaaj – protest

hukoomaton ko badalna to kuchh muhaal nahi
hukoomatein jo badlta hai wo samaaj bhi ho

muhaal – impossible

rahegi kab talak vaadon mein qaid khush-haali
har ek baar hi kal kyun, kabhi to aaj bhi ho

na karte shor sharaaba to aur kya karte
tumhaare ghar mein koi aur kaam kaaj bhi ho

– nida fazli

To the man who sleeps on the pavement

Dear friend,

You are my brother. Everyday when I go to my university, I see you lying on the pavement. As I cover my face to escape the dust and the smoke, I wonder how it is for you to live day in and day out on this road rather than to merely pass by it for a few minutes. As I drown myself in the music of my earphones and forget the ugly sounds of horns and engines, I wonder how it is to live with them all the time. Of course, you manage to eat and are not starving to death. You manage to get some rest and sleep too, even if amidst the dirt of the road. But I still think of you. What did you do to deserve the life you have, and what did I do to deserve the life I have? Since we are brothers, it could well have been that I were in your place and you in mine. Then I would know really intimately what it means to live on the streets in this horrendous city of ours.

I do not own a house. If I did, I would want to give you a room in that house. But perhaps then, I would worry about what would happen to the house when you move in. Would you call other people, people who I do not feel safe around? Unfortunately, I am not free of my anxieties about the poor. Perhaps some of these anxieties are not unfounded either. I don’t know if you are a kind person, or a difficult person to live with. But I do care, and I do feel helpless whenever I see you, or whenever, at night, as I take the U-turn under the flyover near my house, I see an old woman sleeping under it.

I also care when I go to Old Delhi and take a rickshaw. The rickshaw puller, a poor, thin, muscular man in dirty clothes, asks me for 40 rupees to my destination. I feel like giving him much more. Perhaps the next time I will. I want to know more about him, his family, what he does to relax and be happy.

I also care about the poor man on the metro. When he enters the train full of cheerful, fashionable boys and girls going to college, himself dressed in torn, soiled clothes. Perhaps he feels a bit awkward for a while. Then he ignores it. There is much more to be concerned about. He sits in a corner on the floor. I wonder what he does for a living. Perhaps he is a construction worker. When a seat gets vacant, he does not get up and take it. He prefers to sit on the floor. He is used to it, and there is more space on the floor, he says.

I care for all of you. I haven’t forgotten you. I want to know you, to make friends with you, to understand how it is to be you. People tell me that perhaps you are all used to your poverty, and it doesn’t bother you much anymore. That my concerns about privacy, quietness, cleanliness are middle-class concerns which you may not even think of. They might have a point, but being used to something does not mean it is right. It does not mean that poverty is not a blot on the human condition, on what you and I were truly meant to be.

We were meant to be a lot, which we haven’t become. But we are brothers to each other, if nothing else. Perhaps I would not be too hopelessly idealistic if I said that we both also have in our hearts, deep down, a dream of an India where you would not be on the pavement and I in a flat, where the old lady would not be sleeping under the flyover as I drive past in a car, and where the rickshaw puller would have more money, less drudgery, and a better space to live in. We haven’t given up that hope. We haven’t given up the hope that one day we will hold each other’s hands and walk together to a revolution. A revolution that transforms a world that teaches you to get used to the filth on the streets, and teaches me to get used to you, to your getting used to things, and to the disparities between us.

In communion,

A friend.

~ by tdcatss on October 30, 2015.

One Response to “A letter”

  1. Aameen..

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