with a conscience

Some astonishing statistics have been in the news lately. Let us start with the 1 crore (100 million) dais for a politician's daughter's wedding. Most of the money was spent on flowers imported from faraway lands. What happened to flowers grown in the country? And come to think about it was just a one night stand. The flowers withered the next day and must have simply be swept away. Not to mention the outrageous use of official machinery courtesy you and I. And all this while his party is busy polishing its tarnished image by highlighting its concern for the common man.

But that is not all. What was a bigger shocker to me, though it may not be to others was the cover story of a prestigious weekly entitled: where's the party tonight? The article is about the new partying habits of urban Indians, the rich of course.  I urge you to read it.Your grandchild turns eight, you bring snow to hot sweltering Chennai. The tag 20 million rupees. Your husband is busy and you are bored, you catch hold of a few friends and take off for some exotic location thousands of miles away. Every thing is good for a celebration and nothing too expensive. Millions to fly international stars, 30 million for a party, 50 000 for a bottle of sparkly. And wedding can now cost two thousand million dollars! Birthday cakes all the way from Paris@ 300 000 Rupees! Mind boggling? Outrageous? Galling? I am speechless.

Please do not think this post is a case of grapes are sour. I do not grudge anyone for spending what they earn honestly. That is your right. I only ask a simple question: where is your conscience as most of the people who are indulging in partying as if it was the last day on earth, rarely reach out to the less privileged. I am sure these people leave their ivory towers and golden gates and even if the windows of their luxury cars are heavily tinted and their eyes shielded by luxury sun shades they see the reality around them. At every red light some child must be tapping at their window; along their speedy travel they must be coming across building sites where malnourished women carry unbearable loads on their heads; and how can they not go by the innumerable shanty towns that exist every where being the only habitat the poor have. Does these not make them stop and think? Does it not disturb them?

In spite of having spent the last 12 years of my life reaching out to the less privileged in every which way possible, my heart still bleeds each time I see a little child holding his hand out. A few days back at  the Nehru Place red light a beautiful little child with light eyes and a heart warming smile came to me. She must have been 6 or 7. In her arms was a tiny baby perhaps a couple of months old. The little girl held out her hand with a smile. Sadly I had no toffees of biscuits in my bag. By then an older child who knows me told her that I never give money. The little girl simply went to the roadside and sat on the curb hugging the baby and smothering it with kisses. I had tears in my eyes. I wanted to whisk the girl and the baby away from this terrible reality but knew it was hopeless. The light turned green and we drove away.

The image of the two children stayed with me throughout the day and a big part of the night. My helplessness vis-a-vis their plight was tormenting. My mind travelled back to the first few days after the creation of the Trust and the very first thought/idea that came into my mind: the beggar children. Way before project why as you all know it when our dream was to try and find a way out of children begging. Our simple but naive idea was to get people of our city to hand out biscuits instead of coins to every beggar knocking at their car window. What was truly troubling was not the beggar children who were quite happy with their biscuit, but the attitude of the likes of you and me who could not see the core issue and how they could help.

After 12 years of having doors banged at my face when I dared seek help for the poor, I am still shocked at the widening gap between the two Indias separated by invisible yet impregnable walls. If the people who spent with alacrity and impunity spared a tiny amount for the less privileged every time they went on a spree, what a difference it would make. Spend. It is your right. You have earned the money but spend with a conscience.

How does one get people to look with their hearts. The pride in the eyes of a child when she hands you an A report card after years of failing is worth any party you can host; the fast steps of one who could not walk or the first coherent word of one who could not speak is worth more than the crores you can ever spend, particularly if these miracles happened because you were there!