Tag Archives: poverty

The Homeless of the Palace

Home is where the heart longs to be even after seeing the grandeur of the world outside.
Home is where there are the few people who love you, within the walls inside, even though there are million better people in the world outside. Home is where there is freedom, confined behind the bars of love, respect, trust and belonging.

Many people in this world are without a House- sleeping on streets on cold winter nights, couching under polythene sheets when it rains, rolling on dusty footpaths in scorching summers… Yes there is Pain. But there is Freedom too.
For many others, trapped within the four walls of the mansions of their masters- it rains fear. And Life is an endless winter-cold, dry. Life is a footpath which people trample by.


This story is of two such children who unfortunately have such kind of a Home- Bubbly and Chutki. Bubbly is a black eyed, black bodied 15 year old girl. Chutki, who was so small when she came that nobody remembers her real name. For her mini size, they call her Chutki.

It is Raina’s Birthday, the daughter-in-law of the majestic mansion. There’s a cake being cut, snacks distributed to the guests. Raina feeds the cake to every member and calls out for the two girls. Fear gripping them, they run away.

An hour later she watches them eat fragments of the cake, in the kitchen crooks. There is ice cream too but the expensive porcelain bowls are noticed to have been misplaced. The father-in-law takes out his slippers and lashes at Chutki. The mother-in-law does the balancing act. She asks to lash Bubbly too…
The two celebrate their birthdays there…the price for being born as orphans and to poor parents is very well paid. They will never blow the candles, where life has rubbed off their flames. They will never cut Birthday cakes, where life cuts them each moment with its injustice and irony…

Raina regrets, why had she ever gifted her father-in-law those Slippers… Why was it even her birthday!!
The midnight party ends. Raina looks at the two who haven’t shed a tear. Their eyes are ice-white and cheeks and ears blood-red. They lick the quarter scoop of molten ice-cream fast, before that too is taken away and flung into the sink.
Raina’s conscience melts into guilt. She cannot revolt, cannot protect, cannot love them too. She cries into the night wondering how they never cry.

Some days she wakes up at 6 to see them being lashed with a broom or a ladle or a lock , for an unclean floor, an unironed saree, or for simply giggling like ‘illiterate and uncultured’ brats. She cannot decide what good literacy or culture might have done to them. She was literate and cultured and so were her in-laws- one was the heartless perpetrator the other a coward, passive passerby…

She hugs them when they are alone,praises them generously, gives them little hair-clips and trinkets, laughs with them, slips candies into their palms each day…They hastily swallow it for fear of being caught, sometimes even being caught and lashed once again…

Again the candy has choked Bubbly’s throat and she has choked the tears somewhere behind her eyes, acting as if it was all a common affair. No guilt, no pain- like the killing of a mosquito.

Raina says, “Bubbly! Look there are many children in this world who donot have a house, who donot have clothes, who donot get to eat even twice a day. So atleast you have all that…Don’t you think so?”… speaking as if they have ever complained. The coward in her conscience, pacifying their hidden pain.

Bubbly smiles with her bunny teeth ajar, “But Didi we donot eat too, when we break the glass tumblers.”

Raina tries to smile. God is kind enough to put these Iron birds in this Golden cage. Had they been birds of glass, they would have shattered just like her.

According to the latest Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report from UNESCO, there are 57.8 million children who are out of primary school globally, and India with its 1.4 million children out of school, is among the global top 5 worst performers.To put it simply, worldwide, 1 in 10 children are not in school.With an officially estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations (2001 Census), India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world.Nearly 85 per cent of child labourers in India are hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganised sector, both rural and urban, within the family or in household-based units,or as domestic helps which are generally out of the purview of labour laws. They are nothing but Bonded labour, because no child will willfully surrender his/her childhood for money whose value he/she is too young to understand.

Ever thought? a child labour becomes a labour first, and a Child never!



Perhaps you wouldn’t agree if I say…”Had Gandhi been here he would have been elated to finally see the India of His dreams. An India where we “Hear No Evil. See No Evil. Speak No Evil.”

NOOO?? You don’t agree??

Well let me then tell you my story and you certainly would nod an emphatic yes.

This is the story of a customer, who was one amongst the million many to be lucky enough to avail Customer Care. So then…

One fine day my salary arrived from home. These were hard times and such days were momentous indeed for poor chaps like me. The feeling of being rich atleast for a while made me conveniently forget the sole motto behind that money flow.

Rent—- Later. Bills—- later . Books— Later. Shopping— Need of the hour!!!

My ATM card, the symbol of my All Time Money  All time Misery shove me into  a nearby ATM. My card belonged to SBI while the ATM machine belonged to HDFC. And there started the catastrophe. Each time I would insert my card, it would ask me to wait for the cash and then POP!!! ‘Your Session has expired’.  I would start the process all over again. But after the third try, I quit.

I thought this was an indication by Dear Lord to put aside the street shopping and raid on some classy chic place where I would swipe my card straight away like a rich girl and jump home loaded in luxury.

But little did I know that I was already swiped off onto the streets where even street shopping wouldn’t be affordable.

Unlike the usual times I didnot receive any sms alerts about the deduction of my balance and so I basked in ignominy. But the tremors hit me horribly hard when I decided to clear off some bills online. They had deducted the balance three times from the poor fellas account without as much as an iota of hint!!

I called up SBI customer care. None of the toll-free numbers picked.
Then moments of surfing led me onto a random number that turned out true.
Press 1….Press 2….. Press 3….Press 4..aaaand just go on pressing…
until Press my throat was all I could understand!
but with God’s mercy and squandering away my cell balance, waiting and waiting… I got to ‘talk’ to an employee out there.

They asked where and when and how. They confirmed my loss and that the   HDFC was the culprit. So what next?? I was asked to file a mercy petition to the culprit so that the wrong could be undone!!! and the phone was hung up. Bang!!

I was shocked and scared in disbelief.
I began pondering…
Well Books could be put aside for a moment, with them or without them chances of passing were one in a zillion 😉
But Rent loomed large on me 😦   What If I beg once more for an immediate bail out package?? I could adjust with scanty in the next month…or perhaps I would return when I got back the money…perhaps

But Daddy won’t believe..he would think I straightened my hair again at some expensive salon 😦

So I tried Customer Care once again. This time there was a lady. She set me thinking…English, Hindi, Odiya is all I know…So which Language is she talking in???

I figured out that it was a rapid fire version of Hindi..and some intensely, thoroughly and severely practiced version of English which I was unable to comprehend. Whatever I asked there came the same answer, more often than not, not the answer to the question I asked. Perhaps my English wasn’t as good as hers

I thought. The only way out is to not to let her speak at all. I explained my woe, first in English and then patiently in Hindi. A volley of questions followed...errr …Pardon..Sorry I couldn’t hear you….Pardon I don’t get you….
I summarised my issue all over again.This time in her language, and it worked!! Customers must understand the language specially customized for them. THIS is called Great Customer Care!!

I was asked my Account Number…then  some 11 digit number. Then some 19 digit number… some random number on the ATM receipt and on and on!! How could I ever be grateful to them for considering me not a mere mortal but a supercomputer!

The issue remained unresolved and umpteen calls followed for 2 days. Finally I was asked to go to my nearest bank branch and collect THE Number with which I could file a complaint, which would again be a number with  which I was to inquire about the processing of my request, which would then generate a number…..Ohhhh forget it…!!!

I located the nearest branch. My discretion said it was far. I took a rickshaw and dumped a friend along. Oh don’t tempt me to describe the ease with which we located our destination! THIS is called Banking at the doorstep–Financial Inclusion, so to say.  🙂

We were scared what if it was the lunch-hour and they ask us to wait or come later?? But then there was one consolation. In our banks lunch-hour starts right after break-fast when the office opens at 10 and continues precisely until tea-break at 4, intercepted by just a bunch of more tea-breaks. So any hour in between would be lunch hour… so there wasn’t any point worrying.

We took a deep breath and went inside. Too many counters confused our cerebrum. We decided to randomly try our luck at one.. anyhow we would be tossed like a volley ball and thrown from counter to counter.
And our expectation was proved beyond doubt.
After having repeated my issue to nth people in nth counters in the most patient and polite manner possible then, I decided it was time.

We glanced at each other and rushed straight away into the Branch Manager’s Office. The Lady seemed to be working hard. She looked at us, a tinge of surprise and before I could mumble my issue she took my pass-book and scribbled a number onto it. Yeah she was busy. No time to Hear, See or Speak. I seemed glad until she said I had to call customer care and site this miraculous number and THEN would they file a complaint. I asked why couldn’t I file a complaint here. To which the reply was, ” Madam it would be faster”….Ooooh what a relief!!! THIS is called Fast-track redressal of customer grievance!!

I had to thank her for her mercy and hopped out.

But the way back home was full of hardships. Pretty dresses on the display windows lured me to take them home.
NO! NOO! I would have restrained myself, I swear. But it was my friend who compelled me  and with such easy loans coming one’s way, how do you expect vehement resistance, haan???

Those came home. Some snacks and lemonade also came along…apart from a few other tit-bits.

I came home beaten and battered  and begun jotting down the expenses of the day…this was a habit I took to as survival instincts. 🙂
Oops!! it was 1/10 th of the amount I was hopeful of getting back.
A trip more to the bank to retrieve my lost money and it would eliminate the whole point of wanting it back ever 😛

The series of calls started again. And mercy came my way. She asked me a number and my job would be done. It was my Account number! I was shocked. The miraculous number I had toiled so hard to get wasn’t even of use! My complaint was registered and the next day I got back my lost money 😀 😀

Rent was paid and dues cleared!
With sheer joy I cheered!

And of course I had to throw a Treat for getting the lost treasure back!! 😉
I was ashamed to note down the expenses of the treat in my log book. What if it fell into Daddy’s hands?? That would be my doomsday!

A day passed and I sat down to pay my internet bill online. Annnd as HisStory repeats itself, HerStory repeated itself too! I got a mail saying ‘Transaction Failure’. I was scared to try again but that was the last date following which a penalty would be charged. So I proceeded again. This time they kindly accepted my regards. 😉

But Ooh! to my surprise I got a mail again saying the 1st transaction was a success as well. I immediately checked my account. It had been promptly debited twice. I waited a while expecting a regret mail from Reliance, my service provider and could have waited eternally had I not called them to report the theft.

The story started taking the same flavours. I nearly screamed with disgust.

I rung them up and they said I would have to prove the undue deductions through an email.

So I did. and here’s how…

Soooo! Didn’t I prove it well?

but they said there would be no refund rather they would be kind enough to adjust it against my next bill. This implied their cheeky assumption that I would continue availing their service!! Reliance on Reliance had proved to be a risky affair 😦   I was reminded of the times they had happily fined me for being late by a single day. I wished I could do the same as well.

But as fate would have, I was on the other side of the table and expecting the tables to turn, to have the odds in my favour was like expecting to sprout wings and fly. So I decided to lie down with patience…with the calmness of an ocean bottom and wait…

But there was a greener side as well. 🙂

 I learnt the Customer Care Sign Language.

 I developed as much perseverance as not to scream while sitting on a frying pan. 

I learnt to put on my best smile even in the worst possible circumstances.

 I learnt that ours is a truly disciplined country where “The Rules” are followed come what may, even if that means bending, twisting and changing them altogether, but yet sticking onto them forever.


 So what more does one want!!

NOW don’t you agree that Gandhianism holds true more today than ever before? Just that “The Rules” have been altered a bit. 😛

And we say…

” Hear not Anything.  See not Anything. Share not Anything”.

Now THIS is called CustomerScare!! Ooops Customer ‘Care’ 😉


What Does it take to be Happy??

I know this picture didn’t seem pretty enough..surely not one to be put in this Blog…my blog…owned by somebody…who had been so choosy throughout her life…

But then…surely it was something that made me think again…about what I am …what I could have been …what I never was…or what I never would be…

Being too much fussy about the perfect shade of pink for my skirts ….other than the 8 other shades that I already had …I had rather forgotten to think…to think about those girls of my age…who would never know what a pink is…

The story of the little boy who ceased to complain about the shoe that hurt his feet..until one day he found one who didn’t have feet at all..seemed just too touchy feely …to shed a tear or two and quote as an ideal story to any sensible circle….the mails about how much food we waste and how much we grumble about the taste, while millions died of hunger…seemed just a thing to pass on to all those on my mailing list…and show how sensitive and humane I was….

It so happened that one day I came to know the value of a choice …how unhappy I was being able to afford one..and how glad they were..never been considered to make one…

As we set out to explore the New Friends colony near our apartments…I had no idea I would be made to face an inevitable insurgence within me…

After having a sumptuous dinner..the custom said an ice cream cone wouldn’t take too much space in an already overstuffed stomach…So we set out to the Gelatos an Italian Ice-cream corner…Fussying over the flavors and the scoop or the cone choice…each of us got to have their say…

Well Gelatos had to taste good after all the bucks we blew away for those meager spoonfuls…But Lo!…each of us screwed our brows over the taste and the middle class man in us began lamenting about the wallets being emptied over the cones…

And that made us hold on to the cones…trying hard to like the taste, convincing ourselves..it wasn’t all a waste….

Shops…book carts…cinemas… salons.. spas…food courts apart from the young funky mass thronged the place…After all it was the New Friends Colony…one of the Posh areas of Delhi…but then wasn’t it a part of this planet..where also lived many semi-clad, half naked, half-fed-hollow-eyed people…millions of street children…just like us but unfortunately so unlike us…

Time had taught them to know how to make the best of their surrounding…what if they didn’t have the best of the lives…they would still flaunt an animated curve under their running noses…Really time had taught them well…

Such a bunch was hanging around us too…a 7 year old “big” girl with her year old sibling hanging around her waist…and a couple of other under 10 boys …

well begging was their job…not that it was the best profession in the world…but they just had it…call it livelihood …or call it liking….

It wasn’t that great when you saw those blank faced children tugging at your tea-shirt as you licked on your cone…Not that I have poured out my sympathy to such children of the street all my life…not that I feel that’s the only option they have…not that pity is the only thing I can offer them…but yes…yes that it was easy for us to sit back and scorn at how lazy and sly these kids were to beg around…to shop for our sympathies…while I felt why couldn’t my mom offer me the glass of water as I sat gaping at the TV in an AC room…thinking it was too hot for me to step out….

It has always been like this for us and it has always been like this for them…each of us have inherited our fates and fortunes..and each of us are trying to convert it into something a bit different than what we have been handed over with….

Well…it didn’t take them long to realize …the ice-creams didn’t taste that great to us…and perhaps they could have a day with it…as one of us handed over the cone to one of them with an expression of relief of getting rid of that melting thing….I found my insides melting away…yes an inevitable insurgence gaining pace within me…

I had a tough time explaining my never understanding self…it wasn’t the 80 bucks that would go away…if I gave away that thing to that creature near me…It was The knowing…that how can she like something that I detested…how can I accept that I was sooo Lucky that I was not her,…when all my life I had grumbled about the things I never had…. about the happiness that God gave me so little….about the fate that was never right..and so many things that made me sooo unfortunate…..The Knowing that how can she be happy taking something in …that I was so happy getting rid off….??

The Knowing hurt me badly….it really did…

I gave her the thing anyway as did the others…the pale-faced jumped off in delight…having had her delicacy of the day….

I was losing myself again….

The winter couldn’t chill me…neither could the ice-cream as I watched the goose bumps on their naked bodies and felt too hot inside my jacket…Huh! The jacket wasn’t right of course!!….or perhaps right wasn’t I…..

They went away merrily…but I couldn’t have my calm…not that I had my calm earlier…grumbling about things I never had…rather than being grateful for the things I had…was my habit or perhaps my hobby….

Well food was not something I ever put in garbage bins….even the lights and the fans I always put –off when I left the rooms irrespective of office or home…Squandering away resources has never been my virtue…

So this story gave me a different lesson…

The question that disturbed me was “What does it take to be happy…??”

I had all the stuff that I wished to have at some point or other in my life…I had all the people I ever needed,… caring for me at all the walks of my life…I had all of the everything that was tangible and intangible…virtual or real….

But something I never had was happiness…Now tell me what does it take to be happy…I was utterly confused about all the choices I had and always disturbed about the choice that turned out to be not so commendable….

Here I remember a video that I so proudly added to my Orkut…called as ‘Chicken –la –carta’…it had won an award in the Berlin Film Festival for the best Documentary…

A worker in a restaurant brings in the left-over chicken bones in a big bin for the poor and hungry children of his village…and as the children pounce onto the Chicken bones…with so much of hunger and so much of happiness…this is what the video says…

“Let me tell their story,

You won’t think it’s true..

I have not forgotten ..

So I am sharing it with you…

For all the things we know …

What have we really learned??

Though I close my eyes…

The images remain…

And their story begins again…

Let me tell their story

That no one else can hear…

How can someone’s’ laughter

bring me close to tears….

And you will never know…

Cause you have never been there…

After what we have seen…

Can we close our eyes again…???

Well how true…”How can someone’s laughter bring me close to tears…??

For all the things we know…what have we really learnt…??”…

Yeah…I really doubt what I have learnt…and I am really confused as to why their delight was despair to me that moment…Perhaps because they were happy with something I was so unhappy with ….Perhaps because they knew what could make them happy and I didn’t …Perhaps because they knew their choices well or Perhaps because they didn’t have any choice at all…

yeah with all the things they could never have …they only could have a choice to rejoice…with whatever they had…

Usually as I pen down my thoughts…I become clear by the end of the last full-stop…about what it was… that was so very disturbing…about how to handle the thing…the feeling …or rather the fact that it was disturbing me…

But unfortunately it isn’t so this time…I am utterly confused as I had never been before…I still don’t know how to go about the choices in my life…and I still find myself wanting sooo many things that I do not possess today….I still don’t know how to have The choice to rejoice as the only choice in life….I still don’t know whether I am happy…and I still don’t know…how should I go about if I am unhappy today…..

Well Happy or Unhappy…I consider myself fortunate that I am not her…

I consider myself fortunate that I can afford to have a choice…what if I haven’t figured out which is the right one…there would certainly be hidden The Choice to Rejoice in the choice heap….and one day I would certainly find it in the pile…

But then apart from the million other questions that have remained unanswered within me…this one would take me a life time to figure out….”What does it take to be happy?? ”…..

Tell me ….”What does it take to be happy??”