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- Learnings Down the Years
Sunday, 22 March 2020
The woman I buy flowers from daily was silent today. None of her usual smile and greetings. I asked her quietly if sales were very bad. She said she had sold nothing. It was nearly 9 pm when I stopped at her small table under the tree.
She said that the temples were all closed on order. The park also. Passersby were few. No one bought anything.
Her items are perishable. She travels to Koyambedu to buy flowers. Bus charges are substantial. When the days pass like today, it's not just zero earnings, it's a loss.
The flowers fade away. She also fades away.
She is one of the 'masses'. Her son is a drunk. She and her daughter in law run the home. Her daughter in law works as a maid in a few homes.
She has a rickety table and a rickety stool on a corner of the footpath. That is her entire business.
Mr. Prime Minister. Narendra Modi
Your address yesterday asked us to stay at home on 22. To clap from balconies. A nice touch.
But you did not touch on the real issue. This woman, and others like her. Whose lives and livlihoods are lost. Who are themselves lost. Crushed. Under this halt of economy. Under social distancing.
We are waiting...
For you to live up to your duty. Your answerability. As the Prime Minister of our country. To this woman. And all others like her.
As the Kerala CM is doing. In concrete terms. 🙏
Fading flowers, trying to act unfaded ...
Today on the streetside I saw the rickety table back, and the familiar figure I had been seeking so long. Kaveri, from whom we used to buy flowers daily. Because she needs to sell them as much as my daughter loves to wear flowers.
But after the lockdown the table stayed forlorn, and I had tried to reach her in vain.
Today she was there again, with a few flowers. Sad lookin flowers. She called out seeing me, and chatted with usual warmth. And asked if I wanted flowers. She said take it all, give what you want. I gave her themoney I had been trying to reach to her last few days in this lockdown.
And she continued in a lower voice. How her grandson had had a cold and wheezing, and how he was admitted in the government hospital at Egmore. How the ambulance took him, and they came back after 3 days. They needed to take an auto, 500/-, as there was no transport. ... money vanishes these days in a minute.
I took her number now, and have her mine. It feels better.
As I walked down, the old man with his tea cart was back. And further some more women with flowers spread on the footpath.
The poor are back, doing all that they know to do. To try to eke a living. To earn an honest days wage.
Social distancing can happen to us whose meals are assured ...
The flower vendors tentatively spread out their wares. Hoping against hope for some sales.
Lakshman Rekha is for those of us who can stock up. Not those who need to to earn each days meal that day.
Till their survival concerns are addressed, every strategy is doomed to fail.
I walked down the darkening streets with my bag of biscuits. Blue packets of glucose biscuits.The 5/- a packet kind. For the street dogs.
I passed the pushcarts on the sidewalks, tied down with yellow tarpaulin and rope. Carts with glass bangles under the tarpaulin. Carts with plastic wares under the tarpaulin. Carts with slippers under the tarpaulin.
The roads were quiet, the birds were chirping. It was still. In the fast approaching darkness.
I see posts describing the beauty of nature in these lockdown times.
And as I read them I see the carts. And the nameless faces behind the carts. Which have no more daily earnings.
I see the face of that man with his earrings spread on a small plastic sheet, that day before the lockdown. I bought 15 pairs of earrings that evening. Not knowing what else to do. Helplessly.
And the next day the lockdown began. The man has disappeared. As the poor politely do. Without troubling us. Or our sleeping conscience.
And the quiet, peaceful roads suddenly start looking menacing. Not beautiful.
The street dogs in my area are all starving, and sniffing at each stone and leaf on the deserted roads. At looking hopefully at each passer by, and following them wagging their tails.
The tea shop owners, and other vendors and also the walkers made up an ecosystem that supported them. With kindness.
They are all lost now. What can we do ? I will go daily and feed a few, but more than that ?
#Corona #Collateral #Damage
Along with other street vendors trying to come back to combat hunger, the ragpicker was also there. In his patched black shirt.
From the almost empty trash bins he had collected a few plastic coca cola bottles, into the big sack over his shoulder. And walked to the next trash can.
Reaching there, he first carefully laid out a piece of old newspaper and from a small tin, placed a heap of yellow colored rice on it for the two dogs that stay near the trash bin. Then he peered into the trash bin. There was nothing and he moved on.