A few weeks ago, I left home with a feeling of laziness. I was not in a mood to visit my friends but I had to, as it had been long since we took time out from our busy lives and hung out with each other. We had fun and it was pretty much the same as our previous meets.
I asked for a lift from a friend of mine and we drove back. It was a half hour drive to my house. After 15 minutes or so, our car stopped at a traffic signal and we were greeted by a group of around 3 to 4 beggars. They all said the same thing, “allah ke naam pe dede, 5 rupya dede baba, bhook lagi hai, bhagwaan bhala karega” (Give in the name of Allah, give 5 rupees, I am hungry, God will do good to you).
I did not give a single penny and we drove ahead. At the next traffic intersection, we met another group of beggars and they all uttered the same line, “allah ke naam pe dede, 5 rupya dede baba, bhook lagi hai, bhagwaan bhala karega” (Give in the name of Allah, give 5 rupees, I am hungry, God will do good to you). One voice was that of a girl who was crying as she stared with her nose glued to the window screen. I opened the window and asked her how old she was. She did not reply, seeing this, her sister, who was relatively older came rushing towards us as she thought that an interaction with me might land her 10 bucks. I asked her again, “Kya naam hai tumhara?” (What is your name?) Her sister replied, “Deepa, Deepa naam hai iska.” (Her name is Deepa). I enquired further about her age, and she told me she was 16.
I was shocked to hear what her sister told me next. “Saahib paisa dedo,pet se hai ye, iska bachcha pal jayega, kuch khaane ko nahi hai, iska bachcha kaise jeeyega?” (Sir, please give us some money. She will be able to feed her son, we have nothing to eat, and how will her son live?) “Saahib zabardasti hui hai iske saath, isliye pet se hai ye.” (She has been raped, and that’s why she is pregnant) I was shocked to hear this and later during the day I contacted a local NGO who took care of street kids. I told them about the beggar, Deepa, and asked for help. After almost an hour of persuasion they agreed to help me and give shelter to Deepa.
The family members of Deepa agreed to send her in exchange of food which they could get every night at the NGO’s office. A week later the NGO called me up. The voice on the other side of the phone was of the NGO branch committee member. After introducing himself and flooding me with information about the latest developmental work by their NGO, he shocked me with an update. He had actually called to update me about Deepa and how she was. His words shook me. He said, “Sir we had conducted a few tests of Deepa for her pregnancy, and we found that she is suffering from AIDS.” What was more shocking was that after a few days, they saved Deepa from a near suicide. Later she confessed that the child she was bearing was of her own father.
I was nearly in tears. The caller told me that they were sending her to a government run hospital. After a few minutes he disconnected the phone. But I was left in shock. Not that I did not know that these things happen a lot on the streets, it was just that I never knew that I would meet someone who was going through something like this. This was my close encounter, an encounter which shook me to the core.
May Deepa suffer less in her next lives.
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