Facing inflation with dignity, but for how long?
This Sunday afternoon, it was all dripping with unexpected showers taking the national capital in its humid lap. A lazy afternoon that urged me to relax over a hot cup of coffee, but taking a stride to the nearby Cafe that day was not that relaxing as it felt it would be - rather it was painfully shocking.
Just at the entrance we met a woman picking up the leftovers from the cafe dustbin. A disturbing sight indeed that changed the relaxing mood to a thoughtful one since she was quite neatly dressed and did not seem to be a usual beggar or rag picker for that matter. She tried to cover her face when she realised our stare. Not bothering her much, my neighbour and I decided to follow her act from the corner of our eyes.
She picked out half-eaten stuff discarded by many like us from the café-bin, and collected in a neat bag. When the bag was almost full, she pulled out another one from her sari and began filling it. Just then a 5-year-old boy rushed to her whom she handed over a half-eaten sandwich from one of the bags, and got back to her 'job'. Not being able to bear the sight, we pulled out a ten-rupee note and extended it to her.
"I am not a beggar; it is just that I need to feed my two hungry kids. The flour and rice I bought yesterday finished off in one go last night. Things are costly now, and you get much less for what you had to pay earlier," said a remorseful Ameeran, a land labourer from Bihar who came to Delhi in search of a better vocation after her husband left her five years back. She added, "Vaise bhi apke yeh paise chalenge kab tak? Dus rupye mein aaj kal aata kya hai?" (Moreover, how long will your ten rupees last? What can one get in this meager amount?)
She was right. With inflation figures going down only virtually, her reply was more than perfect for the situation of many like her who left their homes to earn better and in turn are left with no options today than to beg or eat leftovers.
Embarrassed and not knowing what to say, we offered her more, but she was more than reluctant. "Bibiji, aaj aap madad kar doge, kal kaun karega? Aadat nahi bigadni hai, warna kahin bhukmari bheek mangne par mazboor na kar de." (Madam, today you are helping us, but who shall help tomorrow? I do not want to spoil our habits, else starvation will force us to beg.)
A dignified reply indeed, but how long will you continue like this, I asked.
"I can's say how long, but can surely say that as long as I can, I shall eat leftovers rather then beg or steal. I just repent the day I voted for Sonia Gandhi. Look at the way her ministers and their aides filling their own pockets. Raja 'babu' ko dekho kitne crore ka ghotala kiyen hain." Ameeran keenly watches news to keep a tab on developments in Bihar. "Is tarah raha Dilli mein to hum wapas Bihar luat Jayee; Nitish Babu kafi kaam kar rahen hain suna hai wahan. (We will return to Bihar if the same continues with us in Delhi). Her reply echoes in the hearts of many migrants like her. But how many like her live with such dignity in the current scenario? And how many repent for a similar choice of the governance? Many is the only reply.
Just on out way back home we met at least five people who were begging at various traffic signals in the name of God. when a 6-year-old Kalu was handed over two rupees, he retorted back, "Madam 2 rupye deke beizzati mat karo, isme aayega kya is mehngayi mein? Padhi likhi ho mehangayi ka bhav nahi dekha kya? Thoda aur do, varna mujh jeson ke paas kuch din baad chori ke alawa rasta na hoga. Hotel mein tip de sakti ho, mujhe nahi? (Madam at least pay a decent amount. You seem educated, so haven't you seen the rate with which the inflation is soaring? Please be considerate, else people like me will have no option but to steal. You can pay tip to a waiter in a restaurant, then why can't you give me some money)."
A further inquiry revealed that a year back Kalu came from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to "fend for a family of four after his father died in a road accident." The tiny tot works as a domestic servant. Earlier, he used to send his family consisting of an ailing mother and three younger siblings, half of what he used to earn. Bravo for a kid his age!
Today, his earnings barely help him meet his own ends. So in 'free time' he begs at traffic lights because after "all the tiring work at various homes" begging is little relaxing and not that tedious a thing. Good gracious, what an explanation! To that he replies, "But it is better than stealing, madam. But one thing I must say that the day will come when I will have to steal if our government doesn't mends its ways. My employer tells me that all this is due to corruption, otherwise Indian is a rich nation." Kalu rushes back to his seating spot as the light turns green. And we are left back only to think again and again over the plight of the common man, just when the cafe bill I was holding in my hand falls in my lap. I take a look at the bill and just recall that we used to buy nearly double the refreshments of what we had that day, before the inflation....uh or should we say corruption-driven inflation went sky-rocketing. Many like Ameeran facing the situation with dignity, but for how long?
More about Mahima Sharma
Mahima's passion for social change-oriented writing propelled her to join the world of journalism leaving her blue-collared PR manager's job in 2004. Having an experience of over 6 years with Hindustan Times, ANI-Reuters and now CNN-IBN, she wishes to bring about a change in the society's thinking process through her write-ups and her work at CNN-IBN. Besides reading and writing, Mahima loves to write short poems and do experimental cooking.