I have been rapped on my knuckles many a times during from the day I decided to give up the comfort and ease of being an armchair activist of sorts and cross the line. One after the other I saw all my lofty ideas not only put to test but demolished by the realities that stared me in the face. And each time one had to reinvent oneself as the challenge had to be met. Somehow this seems to have been the pwhy story.
But never was the lesson harder than this time. As the country still battled the aftermath of 26/11, though without being cynical it seems to have taken the back burner on the prime time news being replaced by political drama of all hues, a little family in Delhi was struck by its own terror: the death of a father.
As I said in my last posts we were shocked by the incident and set about making the right moves: dole out the money urgently needed to allow the family to perform all the complex rituals and imagine - i say imagine - a road map for the young widow. We knew that the family had survived by selling tobacco and other ware in front of their home. So we felt that we would help the young mom continue doing just that. It seemed doable or so we thought.
Yesterday we went to visit the little family as Radha had been asking for her teachers. What we saw shocked us beyond words: Radha and her family live in a what can at best be called a box made of brick and mud with a tin roof. The place is sunk in and the roof too low to allow you to stand. The landlord lives in the next space and charges not only 400 rs a month but also his three meals. In that hole lived six people 2 adults and 4 children including little Radha and her brittle bones. The hovel is situated on the road in the midst of an unhealthy industrial area replete with fumes, waste an drunk men. Radha's mom's chilling words made us realise the stark reality: till yesterday she said I had bangles on my arms and sindoor on my forehead, today I have lost that and my back is naked! There was no way this young woman could survive let alone work and bring her children up in this place. She would be torn to pieces and devoured by lurking predators.
Our easy road map came crashing as we stared at what I would simply call social terrorism: the insidious beat that lurks and lies in wait for the right moment to attack. As long as her husband was alive and even moribund, she was safe, today she was in extreme danger. She had to be protected and sheltered. Her tin roof on a roadside was too flimsy to shield her, her little family and Radha's brittle bones.
Such is the plight of innumerable families in India's capital city, a stone's throw from our comfortable lives. What is it that allows anyone to sink into such despair? How long will it take for 10 year old Meera to turn into price prey? Where are the powers to be, the social programmes, the aam admi's government? And how can we continue to allow this to happen? India has supposedly woken up to the threat of terrorism, but what about this kind of invisible and subtle terrorism that gnaws at the lives of millions each and every day? And please do not spring karma and other such theories at me, what about our conscience?
We will get Radha's family out of the dark but what about all the others? Is it not time that we the so called educated, privileged and articulate people woke up. There will be no 26/11 to bring social terrorism to the fore, we simply have to learn to open our eyes!