Fair, long bearded, white shirted, sitting in the shade of a wall next to a huge pile of rubbish, he seemed like a ragpicker.
In response to my question, “will you eat chikkis, father?” he held both palms out, cupped together. I took 2 of the 4 chikkis (peanut sweets of jaggery), I was about to eat and dropped them into his palms. Then internally compelled, I told him, ” aur bhi hai (there are more)” and gave him the other two also.
My blood sugar was already low and I had started to tremble. It was a huge risk for me to part with the only food in my grasp. But it was my acute hunger that made me sensitive to the hunger of that person. I knew that I could buy myself a cup of tea further on, but that baba might not have the option. At that time his hunger was more real to me than my rapidly dropping sugar levels.
That day between the Gita Mandir and the Somnath temple, I understood how it is, that the poor are sensitive to the hunger of other poor people and can share or sacrifice their food for each other. Why women reach out and help other women. Why people who have experienced a problem reach out to help others with that same problem. Why families of the cancer affected support cancer stricken people and why the disabled fight for other disabled.
If you are zooming past in a vehicle with a camera, you can’t feel that baba’s hunger. You have to experience that particular kind of pain to empathise with another person’s pain. That is why the problems of the rag-pickers will be solved only by the rag-pickers and by the poverty-stricken by the poverty-stricken. That is why women will solve their own problems and Indians will solve the problems of India.
Today, as I watched the movie “Milk” on tv (yes, finally!), and watched how the gay people fought for their own rights in USA and won, I knew I was right.
The person who solves the issue of poverty in India is not going to be a key tapping journalist, a politician, an NGO, an economics nobel laurete or a charitable organisation. They don’t understand the pain, and therefore they won’t understand the problem. They keep trying to transform or “raise” others into replicas of themselves. Gandhiji was one who transformed himself from a rich bania, to a man with two sets of clothes, a cobbler, a toilet cleaner, a weaver, a farmer… to become one of the people that he wanted to catalyse into helping themselves. He is an exception. That is why his solutions appealed to the masses. He felt their life, pain, problems and strengths.
In the absence of such catalysts, it will be from within the suffering groups, whether masses or minorities that solutions will emerge conceived in their minds, fought for by their arms and won by their sweat.
As the world applauded, when India won her freedom, we will applaud as each group within India, overcomes its specific problems and achieves victory over their circumstances.
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula