Monday, July 14, 2008

The Child on the Road

The child was barely 11 months old. She sat in the middle of the road to my place. She was clad in a thin frock, she had dirty patches on her skin and her nose was running. Her eyes had big blotches of kohl. A small Ziploc bag having 5 or 6 mangoes was lying close to her. There were a couple of pieces of Indian bread (roti) wrapped in a piece of cloth lying next to her.

I was coming by car, I saw her from afar. I thought someone with her would pick her up just in time. I stopped the car very close to her; there was that fearless look in her eyes that you associate with innocent ignorance. There was enough space for me to drive by her , but I was afraid I might hurt her in case she suddenly lunged towards the car. I came out of the car looking for the mother, or a possible guardian, which I presumed was a beggar. Finding none, I picked up the child as lovingly as I possibly could. There was a little room on the side of the road. I make her stand there and sat near her, asking where her mama was. She was dazed, she didn’t even cry when I picked her up. I touched her cheek, I m amazed it didn’t take much effort to touch her dirty cheek though I am always finicky about my kids being always clean. Then I picked her mango-packet and placed it next to her. As I went to pick the pieces of bread, I saw a scooter coming from the other side. The young boy might just have crushed the bread and rode off. I almost bullied him into stopping and picked the bread, wrapped it in the piece of cloth and placed it next to the child. My car in the middle of that small approach road - I sat with the girl, painfully aware that in case she was an abandoned child, I would not be able to leave her like that and go home. In that split second, I tried to weigh all the options I had, in case I had to do something about an abandoned child. Once again, I tried to look for someone who had left her there.

I wondered, hungry myself, who could have the heart to leave her like that? Meantime a waif of a woman, carrying another infant, a girl less than 2 months, on her side, came there. I was so angry that I wanted to slap her. I think I was louder than I normally am, “ Kaun hai tu? Yeh teri bacchi hai? (Who are you? Is this child yours?)” She had an expression of a dog just kicked. Sheepishly she pointed towards a gate, “ Haan, woh main wahan se kapde lene gayee thi. (yes, well, I had gone to get clothes from there)” There meant two girls standing near a bike. I guess those girls had promised her some garments some other day and today was the day of the fulfillment of that promise. I was least interested in her donors. “Tumne bacchi ko beech sadak mein bithaya houa tha, koi kuchal deta toh? (You had made the child sit in the middle of the road, what if someone had crushed her?) She again mumbled an ashamed answer. My anger was mounting up, I don’t know why. I almost shouted at her, “If you couldn’t take care of her, why did you give birth to her?” Immediately I regretted having said that. If she had a choice, she wouldn’t be a beggar. If she had a choice, she would probably not have given birth to a girl child. After all, then she would have had the choice of Pre-Natal Sex-determination.

Seeing me shouting at that woman, a man came towards me. He tried to add fuel to the fire. “A couple of minutes ago, when I came with my car, she had made the younger one sit in the middle of the road.” I was so full of my own wrath that I hardly paid any attention to him, which I know he didn’t like.

I wanted to yell at her, “If the wheels on the road leave her alive, the predators roaming about won't. She would be raped, maimed, abused and left to bleed and die. Why did you leave her alone on the road?” But I didn’t say that. I just said, “Dhyan rakha karo is ka” (Please take care of her). My voice was sounding more like a request than an angry shout I had meant it to be.


maheshinder_singh said...

Wonderful expression! This is the best in you. They come from your heart and that’s what as a reader,I enjoy the most. I wonder where you get all that courage from; the simple soul that you are makes me wonder, how you manage all this. I myself am not sure if I would have stopped the way you did. After reading your post, I feel whether we are human at all? Why are we so self centered and selfish? I am not sure about others, but I on my part feel a little ashamed, I will try to be more humane. Thanks for the post, it is an eye opener. Today I say, you are a good writer; tomorrow many will follow, be prepared for that. Good luck

PARRY said...

Good expressive post for sure. May be I would have given her some chocolates too! But definitely it brings out the compassionate and motherly feeling you have for children.

Anonymous said...

wow nice bhabs i love it buh sadly dis is india one of the largest slums in asia is in india n da biggest population of homelss n breggers as well...........wel acc to indian govt atleast we top the charts at somthing huh.............i totally agree wid you and im happy you gave her a peice of your mind but it wont chnge her shes goin to leave her like that only and when she grows up she will wear half torn clothes( not that shed have any choice) and beg oin the streets and leave her child there girl or boy dosnt matter ......povety is what our nation struggles with the most and we cant o anything about ti because the rich get richer and the poor........well lets not go there

love ya

Sidhusaaheb said...

I hardly had the heart to navigate to this page, leaving the wonderful music behind.


That's besides the point, however.

I feel even more perturbed, when I find a small puppy in a similar situation. That is for the very simple reason that one couldn't possibly explain the dangers the situation could entail, to its poor mother, who is faced with very similar circumstances as the human mother in this case.

BTW, I think I know who the previous comment has been written by.


ਸਾਥੀ said...

Very well written. It is horrifying to imagine what could be her intention for leaving the children in the middle of the road.

dipali said...

You underlined the helplessness many of us feel when confronted with such utter wretchedness.

Gurinderjit Singh said...

It is time to contribute to the welfare of these unfortunates single handedly without waiting for the governments or some magic.
My dear Bloggers.. let us start a project.. Mampi.. take the lead

Anonymous said...

there is a constant dilemma with dealing with beggars. some of the things that they do seem so wrong. yet at the same time one knows they are not in control of their lives and often do things because of a complete lack of options.
for that lady those hand me down clothes were really so imp that she thot it was ok to leave her tiny kid alone on the street...
im really happy to see u stopped over to help that child. bravo.

Monika said...

i dont really know whether she is to be fully blamed or not... its the whole system the hunger the need to feed the stomach of people that led her towards this... the comment that that man made could actually be right, in delhi i have come across people from this strata leaving their kids on road hoping that some vehicle would touch them and they would take huge money out of the driver... pity but this is the state of some people in the country... we as a generation need to awaken and do something abt it

Jasdeep said...

Wonderful post,

This is the bane of being poor and than being a woman. They can't pre plan there lives, they don't have kids with there will.The environment they live in and they come from can't help them come out of this scum.

When they don't have food to eat mouthful, and clothes to wear.Who cares about living and dying.

What we can do is , just make them aware how to be self-reliant,Maybe there is one Muhammed Yunus ( ) here too. So that we can make the woman of economically weaker sections economically independent , with the economics of micro credit (the extension of small loans. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.). So that they can make decisions when to have kids and how to raise them.

This is little idea , i came to what we can do about, Maybe some one from us can be patron for this and can get the money lords around to pump in the money for the noble cause.

Thanks for a thought provoking post though.


Mampi said...

Mahesh-Thank you so much for being my first reader always. I have so much to say but I better not. :P

Parry-Thanks but later I felt, I m so impulsive.

Avna-Guess we can all make a little difference if we choose to.

SS-You introduced me to this album, so the credit goes to you. Well no prizes for guessing the 'previous' commentator. :P

Dipali-Well my intention was to talk about that dilemma. The rest of the issues are there perhaps because of that dilemma. But it is so common and to some extent, natural too.

Guri-Are you serious? I live in a city in which these beggars take my heart away more than 4-5 times in a day. I do want to plan something concrete.

Mandira-I would not have been able to forgive myself if I had left her there.

Saathi Uncle & Monika - Absolutely right, but who knows it might have resulted in a scratch or loss of life.

Jasdeep - Perhaps we could make a forum and do something about it, one step at a time.

Pinku said...

hey Mampi,

that was so sweet and painful at the same time. i always wonder about these kids on the road...children from better off families are handled with so much care, as if fragile made of fresh clay, which they are in a way...but these children of the street they manage with the minimum possible.
Does God make them out of a different metal? Or does the cruelty of the world act as a furnance and bake them at a high degree?

Anonymous said...

A kind heart inside you, did Excellent at the right time when the child was alone.Though it was wrong on the part of a mother to abandon the child on the road, I feel she could not carry the both. May be she was a victim of circumstances beyond her control....,and now she is a single parent to feed the two, which is not an easy job; that too on the road side.

You penned down the feelings of the moments you were with the needy ones, very beautifully.
A writer inside you goes to the 'have nots', is a matter of pride for us.

Keep it up!

God Bless your Pen to reach out the less priviledged part of the society.

~nm said...

I can almost feel what you went through at that moment. But it reminded me of an incident which happened almost 11 years ago when I used to drive a kinetic Honda. But at that time the mother had deliberately asked the child to come in front of my scooter so that if by any chance hurt the child she could use that to extract money from me. Thankfully since I was on my way back after getting my scooter serviced, my brakes were in perfect condition so I managed to stop just inches away from the child.

So these are the cases when I feel very little empathy towards these people as I don't know if they are fake or genuine!

Ramanujam said...

A deeply poignant experience that is well-articulated. But why the reference to roti as Indian bread and not just plain 'roti'? It almost sounds as if you are writing for a foreign audience. Not that you shouldn't, but well, 'Indian bread' doesn't quite compare with the warmth that 'roti' inspires.

Roop Rai said...

everyone has already said what i could've said.

1. you are a fantastic writer. the expression that comes straight from the heart is unmatched. :)

2. your spirit to help others in need is inspiring.

3. your strength to face a situation when most of us would've just evaded it is commendable.

thank you for writing. :)

Maverick said...

Great! I agree with u saying tht she probably didnt have a choice.

"If the wheels on the road leave her alive, the predators roaming about won't. She would be raped, maimed, abused and left to bleed and die."

Or may be instead someone like u or me would exactly do what u did. A little less cynicism and a little more optimism never hurts :)

Mampi said...

Pinku-Exactly, the contrast is what hurts. And then we usually get away with, "what can I do, I m not responsible for their plight." I m no exception either.

Mama-Yes, your perspective is different and right.

~nm-Based on your first hand experience, your perspective is right too.

Ramanujam-Thanks. Well I tried to translate it because I thought there are many parts of India that might not know Roti as roti-that is also in the hope people in those areas happen to stumble upon this blog. And the hope extends to some PHOREN Readers too. :)
I agree that the warmth of roti is not replicated in "Indian Bread."

Roop-Mampi Bows Once, Mampi Bows Twice, Mampi Bows Thrice. Thankooooo so much for encouraging.

Maverick-Yes, it is all a matter of how we see it. However,what crossed my mind is also a sick social reality. But again, what you or I would do is far more important that what could have happened. Absolutely well said, Optimism helps.

Mama - Mia said...

the feeling of helplessness must be the worst feeling...

i really dont know what to say


Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Wonderful post, ma'am. You wrapped it up well in the end when you said "If she had a choice, she wouldn’t be a beggar. If she had a choice, she would probably not have given birth to a girl child. After all, then she would have had the choice of Pre-Natal Sex-determination.". And I must thank another fellow citizen for doing her duty.

How do we know said...

This is such a awonderful thing to do.. and one that few people will do..

Anonymous said...

i can only say that u r a superb writer n u really hav the guts to face such situations.....
keep it up...

Indian Home Maker said...

I am so glad you stopped! If she lives in that area you could kind of watch over her, whenever you pass from there, just ask how she is...sometimes just the fact that somebody knows, notices, cares can make so much difference.
I saw this little boy (8-10?) crying and running away from a man who held a thin branch and threatened him with it. I asked him what he thought he was doing. The man was the father, he said the mother had gone for work, he was half paralyzed and the child was becoming a thief, so he wanted him to tie himself (like an animal)to a pole and sit inside an open tent that was their home.. He seemed more drunk than paralyzed to me, but all I could do was try empty threats, "You touch that boy with that branch and I will get the police here! Are you a father or a butcher?" He yelled back at me that the child will anyway go to the police if he becomes a thief..still I warned him again and drove away because more of his kind were collecting there. But now I watch the family whenever I pass and I know they see me, I have not seen the child tied up again.(a rope slipped loosely through his foot and the other end attached to a pole). Poverty can make parents very cruel. But our noticing means somebody does care.

Mampi said...

Abha-Yes, helplessness, but at the same time, I think I knew what to do, sometimes we just want to think we are helpless. Perhaps I thought that way too.

Sudipta-Glad to have your support.

HDWK-Thank you so much. It helps to know that my blogger buddies appreciate such actions.

Anonymous-Thanks for stopping by. Would have been lovely if you had dropped your name too.

IHM-Thanks for reinforcing my faith in the wisdom of my action of stopping there. And I m glad to know I m not alone.

Majaz said...

Precisely what I want to yell too.

Unfortunately no one's listening.

Manasa said...

That was a nice gesture. I see so many women with their infants begging at the road signals.

phatichar said...

That's one side of the coin.

Did you know there are people who're employed as 'beggars' with babies that don't belong to them, and are picked up from some orphanage?

Anonymous said...

oh.. its sad to see children suffering..u r a good soul. may ur tribe increase!

Mampi said...

Majaz-Lets yell together. It might have an impact.

Manasa-I am always torn at the traffic signals. What to do. I seldom give alms but when a woman comes with an innocent baby, I cannot help it. My husband often chides me. But I dont seem to understand.

Sri-Yes, there are people, children like that perhaps. at that moment, I couldnt see anything else except that child sitting on the road.

Tulips-Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your observation. keep visiting. It will surely encourage me.

Sneha Divakar said...

sad that we dont feel the feeling on the other side. probably she wanted to give her kids the best in the world. or probably the kid was just a burden she carried along for the heck of giving birth to her. maybe thats why she didnt react the way you might have expected her to. the clothes seeming more important is kinda understandable. for all, she might have tried to save herself from the predators and save more siblings, rather than care for the child.