A View from My Window — Observing Novelty, Peace and Harmony

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 30 Jan 2017

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

27 Jan 2017 – I live in a locality of Delhi that is teeming with life of all types. One can get a glimpse of this activity both by coming out on the street or even looking at the sights from my window.

The activity never ceases. During the day there is vehicular traffic – buses, cars, scooters and bikes cycle rickshaws and carts being pulled or pushed by the poor of the city. These carts usually carry vegetables or fruits and sometimes one can see furniture or unopened boxes of refrigerators or household goods being ferried to the buyers of these products. Who pushes these carts – obviously the haggard, tired looking men making a modest livelihood for themselves and their families living in distant villages.

Of course one can be enchanted by some unusual sites occasionally. There may be a man riding a camel or an elephant right in the middle of the road. Are they permitted to ride these slow moving animals on the streets? Who knows – if they get permission or just make their way on the busy streets? Then there may be groups of people demonstrating for any cause that they are sympathetic to – raising slogans against or for different causes — violence against women, recruitment of teachers in schools or colleges, or the demonetization of large currency notes that the Indian government has recently decided upon.

The groups of people may sometimes be raising slogans for a candidate contesting for a municipal or state election, or marching on a victory rally at the success of their candidate to some office. There may be other reasons – a long drawn religious procession or imparting information about some new policies that the local government has decided upon. No end for processions to march on the streets!

At nights it is not uncommon to see people sleeping on the streets or on their rickshaws. Sometimes one can see dogs also lying nearby these homeless people.  People sleeping on the footpaths are homeless and sometimes the drunk also join them. When a man has had too much to drink and cannot wend his way to his hut or slum, he lies down on the footpath and begins to snore in a matter of minutes.

Streets are not just for sleeping. Hard to believe but streets of Delhi sometimes welcome the newborns; poor homeless pregnant women giving birth literally on the streets is not unheard of. By the time their family members take the woman to a hospital or maternity home, the baby cannot wait any longer and the mother gives birth to the cuddly little thing crying out in wonder at its new home.

One can also see small huts — about ten feet by five on the road side. There is one opposite my home and the occupants are a family — a man, his two children and their grandmother. The man sells biscuits, cookies, potato chps and sundry items such as pens, pencils and erasers. He apparently makes enough to feed his family living on the roadside. The children are cute and are too small to understand their condition or to feel ashamed. If a passerby gives them some money or cookies or whatever, they smilingly accept the gift and bend down to touch his feet. Touching the feet of an elder person is an ancient custom and these children have already acquired it. But seeing them smiling is a joy in itself.

Another beautiful sight is that of a woman school teacher who feeds stray dogs every morning with milk and bread. There are at least eight of them and recently in the cold wave that has enveloped Delhi this lady has made some woolen clothes for these strays. I usually exchange a few words with her when I meet her feeding these strays. She told me that apart from these eight or so stray dogs, she has two of her own which she looks after almost like her children. After completing her duties feeding these animals she walks across to the bus stand and takes a bus to go to her school.

One day, during the scorching summer months when the schools have long vacations, I saw her standing at the bus stand. I asked her where she was going. “To my school” she answered. “But you have vacations”, I said. “Yes, of course, but you know I feed some dogs in the school also. I go to the school every other day”.  I was amazed and left speechless.

Can one see some amateurish sports on the street? Of course. One can see small children playing cricket with homemade bats and cheap rubber balls; one can see children trying to learn the tricks of wrestling with their informal coach (who may well be their father or uncle) giving them some hints of how to overpower their opponent.

There are several local games which do not involve any expensive equipment except a rubber ball and local materials such as stones or small wooden sticks that provide entertainment and joy to these kids. All they need is a small empty part of a ground where they can run around and display their skills in these local games.

There is a dumping ground near my home where garbage and sundry disused items of daily use are discarded. An old man who himself appears as garbage — his haggard looks and dirty clothes that he puts on, lives next to the dumping ground. He has no money, no family, and no friends. How does he survive? He sells some garbage like plastic bottles or newspapers and makes a teeny weenie bit of money. In addition some of the local people living around him give him some food or money and provides him some used clothes. He survives in his non-descript manner.

Talking of this man, one can well understand how our Indian ascetics who had left their homes and taken on sanyaas (giving up their homes and jobs or whatever) and living in isolated places, meditating and offering spiritual wisdom to anyone who comes near them, must be surviving in their state of sanyaas — with people offering them a bare minimum of food and water for survival. Even today if one goes to isolated places such as Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the northern parts of India, one can see monasteries and small huts where these sanyaasis live. How they survive is a miracle — not only are their few people around and no vegetation or trees to offer them some bare nutrition, even the air is rarified with much less oxygen in these high regions of the country.

If children are seen working in the roadside tea shops, in contrast, one can also observe small children studying on the streets. The beautiful part is — older children helping the younger kids with their homework.

What a street that I observe regularly, either from my window or when I walk past! What goes on – how to classify it? Is it a street play or a nukkar natak (a mini play), a pantomime, a vaudeville? Yes some of these and something more that cannot be easily described. This is life in all its variety – some joy, some pain and some fun.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Jan 2017.

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