I had just finished the last bite of my anti-sugar Veg sandwich; gulped the last drop of sugar-free tea with dregs of absolutely extracted tea-leaves, allowed the specks to explore every available space inside the hidden territories of my mouth and spitted them out expecting tranquility of mind and space. It was now the time for headlines of that day’s newspaper.
But no. It were not to be. A gentle knock at the door heralded the arrival of unsolicited guest – a burqa clad lady ducked in with a child – past no more than six or seven springs. She said she was widowed and dislocated recently. She had left her home turf or mountains to survive in plains. That was her story in the nutshell. She called me Hajiji and asked for help.
“We come across many needy-looking hapless individuals and its difficult for me to distinguish between a fake and a genuine….. How do I know the veracity of your statement ?”
Tear drops glistened behind the veil, they appeared at its edge and vanished under her chin.
“No, I’m the proof and this child is my proof. I’ve nothing to validate further…..may I go Hajiji ?”
“What is your name ?”
She was Taskeena, a widow, looking for survival in the planes …..strange land for the people used to live in mountains. I ultimately felt she was genuine and helped her with the limited alms that were affordable. She left with blessing“Allah apko khush rakhe (May God keep you happy).
Now, it was the time to get connected with the world again which is far flung and directly or indirectly affecting my life.
Today’s newspaper. An insipid editorial and then an article which began the next page:
Don’t feed the Gators!” read a U.S. representative’s sign during the welfare reform debate. “If we feed them, wild wolves become dependent,” noted another. Comparing the poor to wild animals, these legislators continued our political lurch back to a time when poverty was blamed on inferior human beings and not on the flawed political economy of society. It’s a neat trick, this willed innocence that hides the truth: that poverty’s problems are a result of political choices made by the rich and the powerful that further impoverish the poor. The iron fist of power always needs a velvet glove of persuasion – the drapery of a justifying philosophy to legitimate the dominance of wealth over want. This need explains diatribes about the brutality of gators, the dependency of wolves, the pathology of the poor and the virtue of the wealthy. Such theories argue that poverty is a fact of nature and results from the pathology of the weak, thus undercutting claims for collective obligation to design a better society.
That reminded me a sentence I had read a few days back in another magazine – “When the Congressmen came to power after freedom, every hungry militant was called a Communist. When Communists came to power in some states and still kept many people starving, these poor men were called naxalites.
In 1969, addressing a Conference of Voluntary Agencies at New Delhi, the Lok Nayak Babu Jayaprakash Narayan had said, “ I’ve every sympathy for Naxalite people. They are violent people. But I have every sympathy for them because they are doing something for the poor….If the law is unable to give the people a modicum of social and economic justice…………..what do you think will happen if not violence erupting all over ?” The climax of Bhopal disaster took away all my sympathies and respect for Congress. The shenanigans and BJP didn’t impress me. They both did nothing but played the ugly putrid game of power for very long. We need a new Gandhi, we need a new Swaraj and we need our innocence back. We don’t need the agents of capitalism and we don’t need the over-doze of religion. Islamic extremism is linked to the recent rise in international terrorism and the history of Christianity is every bit as blood-drenched as the history of Islam. Gujarat and Surat didn’t portray a rosy picture of Hinduism. Cambodia and Pol-Pot are built up on human skulls and Buddhism failed to solve the miseries of South Asia.
My God, for Your sake, please I don’t need the doctrines that persuade me to hate my fellow creatures.
I threw the newspaper aside and went out in search of the new Gandhi of my dreams.
He was there, just very near to the garbage heap abutting my locality. He is a very common figure in the morning silhouette of this landscape. A gunny bag on his shoulder and his scrawny body that seemed to disappear under his rugged tea-shirt. He was busier than bee in sorting over the bulging throwaway plastic bags there. Perhaps he was hungry.
I call him near.
“Did you take your breakfast ?”
He gave a cynical smile as if I was a source of disturbance in his endeavors to survive.
“What’s breakfast ?”
There is a unimaginably wide gap between haves and have-nots. I took out a couple of tenors from my pocket and ask him to spend the way he wants.
He lifts up his face in bewilderment. Tear drops, the watery garlands appear in his eyes and run on either side of his cheeks. They meet at his chin and plop down on the collar-bone of his shoulder. He is unwilling to accept this token of magnanimity. He comes near and moves back. No thanks ! There he goes.
My eyes darted down with him as he reached the signal that was red. He paddled barefoot between the stopped cars, his body reaching out only halfway up the windows.
I was wondering if one day he would become a Naxalite or the Gandhi of my dreams, Where is Arundhati Roy ? Where is Khalil Gibran. Perhaps they would be able to tell better.