Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Untold Story: Silence of the Lambs

Couple of days back a friend working with an international non-profit organization that focuses on children's issues, sent me a mail about a missing family in the tragedy of 16 - 17 June that took away the lives of more than 5,000 people. This family was still searching for their only son who had disappeared along with his wife and an young son of about 12 years old since 17 June. I replied that the mail was incomplete if it has to be shared with any of the districts or state officials on missing persons. Later I got a call from this family. ( For the sake of this post, I shall call it Jenny's family.) When Jenny called me I was heading for a meeting, and so I scheduled to speak to her later on 19th afternoon. This post is all about that conversation that left me numb.

Jenny is married and well settled with her family along with her father. It is the story of her missing brother and his family that they are searching for as her father is inconsolable. I took details about the missing persons. Then I heard her speaking about children....women. I said "But wasn't only your brother and his wife and their single son involved?" She said, "Yes, but my uncle's family too traveled along with them." "So, how many were they?" She said, my uncle died sometime ago. My aunt along with her five daughters, their husbands and 7 children (total 18) of them and my brother, his wife and the son (that makes it 21) traveled from Delhi to Haridwar, and from there they traveled by a vehicle to upper hills. They had visited Badrinath around 15th and then on 16th they were in Kedarnath after trekking the mountains from Gourikund. They had called us after the darshan (worship). As it was raining, they decided to stay back in Kedarnath thinking that it would be difficult to trek back the 14 kilometers on the mountains with all the children in the rain. They thought it is better to stay in a place where there are lot of people in stead of getting stuck at a smaller place on the way. Since 17 June, we have not heard from any of them."

With my throat already dry, I asked her calmly, "I am very sorry to hear about this. You mean 21 persons in a single family have been just missing for the last four months?" She replied, "Yes Sir. Each day is a silent hell in our life. The rest of the family, all of us, find it even difficult to speak with one another. It is too much of SILENCE at home. None of us have much to speak to each there. With what words can any one comfort the other?"

I sympathized with her and told her that from my present position I can only share her story with the government and tell them to see if the matter can be expedited as early as possible. I checked with her if they had filed the missing person report with the police, and if inquiry has been completed, for which she replied positively. I checked if they gave DNA samples. She replied that it was not done as the Doon hospital that was handling was over crowded, it was an eternal wait for a whole day.

A whole family had been silenced. Silenced along with the thousands, leaving many more to remain in silence as they keep waiting for their beloved ones, who may never return. The trauma of the remaining members of similarly affected families would take decades to heal. Until then, pray that these families find solace in the company of good friends.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Privileges of the Under Privileged

I get to meet some of the very poor people in this bustling little city of Dehradun. As my auto-rickshaw stops at the signal in Prince Chowk, we get some of the very poor filthy clad women and children lining up to collect the change one may get from the auto-rickshaw driver. Again similar thing happens at Khenak Chowk, hardly 50 meters from the four star Pacific Hotel. I see these people living on pavements with half-naked children, getting wet in the rain, with one of them having severe wound. There is another lady who lives almost opposite of the Tirupati restaurant on the Rajpur road where the pavement from the famous St.Joseph's Academy ends and takes a curve to the left. I saw her fighting with the dogs today, as the dogs were fighting for her food. I just shooed away one of the dogs and came away.

On return to my room in the guest house, I began to wonder - we are talking about rights based approach, human dignity, vulnerability of people who have been affected by the disaster, and those in risk, people who find it difficult to yearn their daily bread because there are no religious pilgrimages. But what is the status of these people? Do they really count in a society where even half a plate of rice without any curry or vegetables (just plain) comes at 15 rupees ! Often it shatters one's heart, but some times, over a long period of looking at these social evils, the heart becomes harder, and we take it in its own stride. Someone had said, "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it an appearance of being right!". 

This is what has happened to happens to happens to humans. Alas, how can the under-privileged speak of privileges. They can just keep mum till they drop dead. Privileges? Those are for the super rich who visit the affected population for two hours and get reported with photographs in English, Hindi and other vernacular newspapers for three days! Long live the privileged class of India!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ready Made or Tailor Made?

The question on whether people affected by the disaster in Uttarakhand should have pre-fabricated houses or a house built on their own according to their needs and likes is the hot point of discussion in the last few days across various categories of people. Should we wear ready made dresses or tailor made clothes? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both, let us see.

Ready made Dresses : They are ready to wear. In emergencies one gets to wear it immediately. Often there are many choices, but sometimes you many not get choice of your own. The clothes, because they follow universal sizes may not exactly fit to your curves....or sometimes, over expose them! They are usually cheaper than tailor made clothes, and so affordable for many. Often people complain of poor quality stitching in ready-made clothes.

Tailor made Dresses : These are the most liked ones as they supposedly tailored to perfection. You might buy cloth, but you cannot wear it immediately. You will have to wait further. Usually these are costlier, and not always affordable. But if you have a bad tailor they spoil the cloth and you are left with a bad dress.

I think the answers are clear. One must know what one wants at a particular point of time and within one's capacity. One cannot ask for having tailor made houses at the speed of buying a ready made cloth. The buyer must be given a choice -- how and what type one wants within the money that one has. Otherwise, the buyer will keep grumbling. Always the other side is greener than this side.