After a long gap, I was finally returning home. Instead of choosing a direct bus to my land, I opted for the one that has its final destination at Baripada, for the simple reason that I could not stand under the hot sun ogling so sternly at me. This simply means I had some extra bucks for spending on another bus ride to complete my homecoming. (I wish I had saved those bucks to eat some more chicken rolls at college square). The only sparing thing was that it was an AC bus, thank God!
Soon, the journey started. It was around 2-3pm when the bus halted at Bhadrak for a while. Some passengers were getting off the bus. Struggling against the crowd of passengers ready to alight from the bus appeared two small boys with blue and green polythene in both hands. And in no time, the whole army of these little innocent traders turned up selling three cucumbers for 10. There were 3 to 4 boys (aged between 10 to 12). For the passengers regularly travelling on the same route, they were familiar faces. I myself had encountered several scenes beforehand. The scene on that day, however, was quite different.
The noon was literally boiling, yet there was a scene for the struggle for existence. These little children going from one bus to another selling cucumber were earning their means of living. This was the fight, I believe, which human civilization has been struggling against – poverty and starvation. We live in a world where people who should be doing labour have taken to begging as an easy occupation, where children who ought to be in schools have been struggling the real agony of poverty and social inequity.
Peeping through the windows of the bus, I could also see a little girl sitting on the roadside with a bucket of cucumbers and peeling them. Her skin was being exposed to the piercing rays of the sun. Yet her unvanquished face bore a sublime dignity; her lips a half-born smile. Inside the bus, those small traders were making a brisk business. I myself bought some for my empty stomach. In spite of the heat and dust which dominated the ambience, they looked cheerful, their smiling faces and agility in body language made an impression that poverty for sure had not been quite successful in draining their zest of childhood.
These kids didn’t invite my sympathy. In fact, I was struck with nostalgia. In a flash, I could remember what my childhood was like. Everything back then seemed sweet and innocent. My infancy, in a more poetic way, was a sumptuous feast of sweetness and beauty. My family was not that wealthy but they provided me with the amenities indispensable according to them as well as things which my fanciful mind demanded. We didn’t have electricity then, I have quite a few experiences of sleeping under the bare sky in our courtyard during the summer. I would sleep with my grandfather staring at the moon and stars while simultaneously listening to BBC Hindi. Unlike Wordsworth and Shelly, I did not write poems in the appreciation of nature. But I did ran behind rabbits and sang along with cuckoos and taught wild parrots how to imitate words. To put in a nutshell, it was completely in contrast with the life these kids lead.
Despite the incurable bleakness of life, they are cherishing a hope against hope, living the dream of a better tomorrow and while the blazing sun roasted the streets with sweltering heat, they are already on a mission to live a life of their own. Food, they know, is a must to sustain. So they are just exploring the crowded buses to earn enough money so that they don’t have to spend the night on an empty stomach.
This simply attests that our so-called democratic government has been far from catering the needs of those who are the neediest in our social hierarchy. All plans and projects for uprooting poverty and starvation have missed the mark. Poverty still exists. Starvation still sucks. And it is asserted by the people of all shades of opinion that government policies are predominantly theoretical ones. They are theoretical as a rule and practical by chance.
Equally abominable is the attitude of the elite class who hold much of the resources of the world and they quite don’t bother to make a waste of them. Take an instance within living memory. During the thirties of the last century, there was a worldwide depression which brought mass starvation and unemployment. The warehouses were full of food and other daily necessities of life. Yet man stood in the bread line while coffee was burnt in boilers and a Chicago merchant staged an egg breaking contest. The highest prize went to the man who broke the largest number of eggs. This is an example of how the rich misuse their resources for mere amusement.
Let us talk about our own country. Ours is a country where the pet dog of an industrialist has more balance in the bank than the people of a small town put together. Films here highlight the plight of the lower middle-class, but no headway is being made for the upliftment of the aforesaid class, nor any strides have been made to ameliorate the poverty prevalent among them.
The government officials have developed a penchant for circumventing their responsibilities towards those poor people. I must say that instead of making new plans which are less likely to bear immediate fruits, governments should ponder over implementing those in action and in this regard individual efforts and public support will also go a long way.
Society is based on the fact that we all in some way or other are related and dependent upon each other, so it is part of our social duty to pay off the debt of the society.