Could you live here

Last week the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On that day the Alliance Francaise had a special celebration. Three graffiti artists from France made live paintings while musicians performed. Pwhy was invited and we had set up an information table and made a power point presentation that was looped through most of the evening bringing the smiles of the pwhy children to warm the chilly evening.

I had to make a speech and while writing it I had to do two things: read the Human Rights Declaration again and then link it to our work. While doing so I realised how privileged we were as most of our rights were protected all the time, something we were barely aware of and simply took for granted. To us human rights was what we defended from the comfort of an armchair or at a cocktail party when some terrible violation had taken place in some remote part of the country or the world. We were simply oblivious to the fact that we belonged to the chosen few whose rights were protected by birth.

As I perused the list of articles I realised that many of the rights we took for granted, were actually violated for many around us though we remained comfortably oblivious to the fact. I sat a long time wondering what I would say in my speech and realised that in hindsight pwhy had somehow been a journey of restoring violated human rights. It all began with Manu. Had he not been subjected to the violation of each and every one of his human right? And even today, 8 years down the line though we may have helped restore some of his rights we have not been able to give him back his right of being a citizen of a country as all our efforts have been in vain. A classic catch 22 situation.

There have been many cases where our efforts has helped restore some usurped or hijacked human right often quite unwittingly and yet there are moments when even our inured minds are jolted beyond words. Recently a visit to little Radha's home shook us out the complacent attitude we seemed to have adopted. The picture you see is that of her house ( the one on the left of the picture is hers). One her mother has to pay 4oo rs a month for over and above the three meals a day she has to provide to her landlord. The house could best be described as a kennel! Made of bricks and mud with a paltry tin roofing this minute dwelling was home to two adults and four children. It is was where they slept, ate, cooked, played, laughed, cried in a word: lived. Is is where little Radha sheltered her brittle bones. No wonder she broke them with clockwork regularity.

Today it lies locked as the family has gone to the village to perform the last rites of the father. When they come back they would have to resume their pathetic survival in this flimsy space. If all goes well this will not be the case as we hope to be able to give the little family shelter in our women's centre.

But across our city replete with its sparkling malls and sprawling homes there are many such hovels where people live, people that make our lives a little easier. When I hear the constant references in speeches made by those who rule this city to making Delhi a world class city for the famed forthcoming sports extravaganza, my blood curdles. Can one even consider making the city a better place if there are people living in such conditions. And what is worst is that many such dwellers have voters ID cards! Hence they are not as invisible as one would like to think. It is just that in our country one does not visit the homes of those who work for us. Maybe one should begin to.

No one can be allowed by any self respecting society to live in a space where you cannot even stand. Please look at this picture again

Could you live here?