Returned from cycling at night, I was in a mart buying stuff for myself that I knew would lie in my house for an eternity before I used them. Conscious of my being there, my mom approached and asked me to buy a few biscuits and snacks.
I got them.
I paid at the counter and exited. Mom handed the snacks over to me and said, “Go, give it to them,” pointing at the end of the footpath.
A lady in her thirties and her three kids were spotted sitting on the edge of the footpath during this period of the pandemic. Without any mask on, without any safety, effortlessly prone to the virus.
I proceeded without the slightest reluctance or any expectation from the forthcoming events. Just as I approached, the sight of a few snacks in my hands lit their faces up in a way I had never witnessed before.
People get all worked up over receiving gifts, going on tours, spending nights at parties. But seeing someone react the same way on getting food as a delicacy left me distressed. The kids shrieked with happiness after being given a few packets of biscuits. They gazed at me with their ebullient grin while I was standing there, smiling awkwardly, gulping down with a feeling of compassion and guilt, slightly teared up.
Their mother smiled at me, seeing her kids excited, and probably asked me if I had a few things at home to donate. I did not happen to pay my utmost attention to what she spoke, for all my senses had been frozen at the sight of the kids being thrilled at receiving something as basic as food. I do not know if it was their only food for the night or if they could at all afford meals thrice a day.
Not being able to stay out for long, I rushed to my house. I wanted to go back and give them some more food. I was too stuck to do that while I was already there. I believe they remembered me for a long time. In fact, they would remember anyone who extends a helping hand.
The next day, I was unable to go out. What if their mother longed for me to offer them some food the next day as well? What if the kids expected me to show up? My heart ached at these thoughts. If they had a shelter or they were left to the streets, if they could slake their hunger or they had to compromise on it, if the kids ever smiled again, I have no clue whatsoever.
I couldn’t find them on the footpath after that night. How I wish I could see them again, respond this time, and offer them a few more things. They had left me with a memory that could not be traded with anything.
That day there were four. In the entire country, there are 1.7M homeless residents, according to the Census of 2011. How often do we disregard the homeless ceaselessly fighting for life? Or how often do we shush away the kids asking for money that chase us on roads, and feel embarrassed about being around them? Just a reminder that helping those kids out with some money, for a fact, will not even result in an iota of loss. During the existence of significantly huge economic inequality, it becomes our responsibility to help the disadvantaged.
Our lives are so facilely comfortable that we forget that there are people skipping their meals to feed their children while we are beyond baffled about choosing that one pair of jeans from Zara.
Change starts from within. We can take the initiative by approaching the homeless residents in/near our locality, offering them food, money and clothes on a regular basis, and make their life rather better.