How can you hear the screams of those who are hungry, when you are “sleeping” with a full belly?
The thought of being born into a privileged family is overwhelming. I grew up reading a few stories of Rabindranath Tagore and was completely thrilled with his narratives in Bengali and English Literature. From his early days itself, Tagore was known as an independent spirit, being confined to the school building was a torture to him. He thought that school is a box where the children are boarded, and all their feelings about the likes and dislikes are suctioned out of their spirits.
Therefore, he did not have any other option than to run away from school. Tagore was privileged enough to get his British teachers to come home and teach. The way he was educated informally was enviably curated and it bestowed him with splendid creativity skills. Being a voracious reader of Tagore’s stories, I owe him a lot of literary knowledge he has provided, though a strange feeling of his prerogative circumstances makes me believe that the creativity gets proliferated only when you have enough to meet the basic necessities in your life. What if the famous veteran writers and poets were born in an economically marginalized family and were forced to work at the age of 10 or even less?
Just a couple of years back, I started my professional journey in the Development Sector and by the virtue of the work I do, I think a lot about the society’s imbalance which pours into our existence every now and then, imbalance from which there is hardly any escape even for us. The process of becoming comfortable and open to the criticism of one’s own privilege is not a common phenomenon.
I have worked with many team members who belong to different sections of society and have been vocal about the plight of humans on the other end, professionals who have devoted their work and passion to tackle the development challenges and issues prevailing in the society. Thinking about privileged and underprivileged is an ongoing exercise. But then it’s a difficult concept to grapple with when situations like a global pandemic arise.
I am constantly learning on my job. I write about the development stories and I am often busy with planning high reach social campaigns. But these days, the creative instinct has been challenged for different reasons. The television channels have now turned into the worrisome news loudspeakers and the morning newspapers are shedding the disheartening light on the plight of humans across the world.
A few days back when life was a so-called “normal” and we were free to take metros to our workplaces, I noticed something worth reading at Mandi House Metro Station, Delhi. The upper floor of the station was filled with huge billboards and the stories of migration during 1947 Indo-Pak partition were written with some astonishing black and white photographs. The stories narrated how in 1947, the world witnessed the largest migration of humans and resulted in dreadful incidences.
Women, children being the most vulnerable victims of the same. The speedily running cosmopolitan life on that metro station never thought that they are going to witness yet another huge migration story very soon.
Immediately after the nationwide lockdown to contain the Coronavirus pandemic was announced, the ones to feel the real thunderbolt of it were the migrant labours who come to the metropolitan cities to earn a few more pennies. Amid the rumours, search for food and livelihood security, everyone is seen urging to go back to their hometowns. When we see such desperation, a lot of individuals among us ask a very common question, what is the necessity to go back?
To which Gulzar, the famous lyricist and writer, has written that “they will go to die there, where there is life.” There is a universal urge to go home when the crisis strikes and when the whole city has been shut down, there are only human bodies who work and thus, walking down to these deadly highways are the only option left.
Broken with the daily reports on the plight of migrants, we decided to provide a few basic food items or them. With the help of community women, we started making some food packets for them and distributed on their way back home. When we stepped out from our homes to help, we witnessed that the picture was darker than we had assumed. The food items given to them were consumed instantly and they started moving ahead immediately. Certainly, they don’t want to save any food as it will only make their luggage heavier.
Perhaps, these sights from the ground are the worse situations I have witnessed in a lifetime of a quarter-century. Have we ever thought, what if these migrants were born in better well to do families? Would they have also managed to be the development professionals or the greatest story writers? We, who earn our livelihood from their stories, have we ever thought about the roles being swapped?
Being privileged is overwhelming and maybe we will hide the gravity of the situation under our ignorance forever.