It’s January month early morning 4 am in Bangalore. The mercury plummeted to 5 degrees Centigrade as the harsh winter swept across the state capital. Chotu the 12 year-old was fast asleep by the side of his mother curled up in a tattered blanket in their single room home in a slum in the heart of the city. The blanket hardly covered his body and the chilly winter was biting into his bones through the exposed skin. His mother gave him a slight nudge and woke him up to rush to the newspaper point to collect the newspapers for distribution.
This was the daily routine for Chotu for the last couple of years after his father’s untimely death due to ill health. While all other children at his age studied, played and enjoyed their childhood, Chotu had to support his family at that tender age. His mother worked as a domestic help but lost her job due to the pandemic. He was the sole breadwinner for the family. Grudgingly, he got up from his sleep, readied himself, got on to his old non-descript bicycle and cycled for a few kilometers.
The harsh cool breeze hit his face and numbed his tiny hands. But he drove steadily, braving the weather to reach the newspaper collection point. There was already a group of newspaper boys like him sorting out the papers and bundling them onto their respective bicycles for distribution. It was already 6 AM by then and Chotu knew that people at their homes would be eagerly waiting for the newspapers.
He pedalled his way to the main roads, lanes, by lanes, into the large residential societies and distributed papers with unfailing accuracy. He was happy that he was able to bring cheer to the faces of many readers early in the morning. The day the newspaper got delayed for reasons beyond his control, he received a hostile reception with people shouting at him for the delay without ascertaining the reasons for the delay. It’s like venting your anger in a restaurant, on the server who brought the bad food rather than on the cook who prepared it.
I sat in my favourite hanging chair in the balcony of my 25th floor high-rise apartment, enjoying the beautiful view of the rising Sun and sipping the hot cup of coffee served by my wife. I was eagerly waiting for the morning newspaper to begin my day. This has been my routine for many years and any change in this routine upset me. It was past 7.00 am and the newspaper was yet to arrive. I started pacing up and down for the delay. Anger was building up in me and when the newspaper boy finally came to deliver the newspaper, I pounced on the poor kid without ascertaining the reasons for the delay. He was terrified and couldn’t say anything immediately but slowly gathered courage and told that owing to night curfew in the city because of COVID, all the vehicles are checked invariably resulting in the delay in delivery and distribution of the newspapers.
His helpless statement coupled with a hurt expression moved me and all my anger melted away. I was ashamed for being so insensitive and inhuman to a small kid who was the age of my grandson and who is struggling to make ends meet in this severe winter just to keep the hearth at home burning. There are lacs of such unknown soldiers like the newspaper boys, the milk delivery boys, the food delivery boys, the medicine delivery boys, the vegetable vendors, E-commerce delivery boys, the ambulance drivers, the cab drivers, the maids, cooks etc., who at the cost of risking their lives continue to serve the rich like us to keep our lives comfortable without any need to step out of home.
We all can afford to stay home, work from home and stay safe. But for them it’s a daily struggle for survival. pandemic or no pandemic.
LET US BE CONSIDERATE TO THE LESS FORTUNATE
By: V. Subramanian