A Glimpse of Poverty in India


A few weeks ago, I was standing outside a mall with a friend of mine. We were waiting for our cab to arrive. A little girl approached us. She was wearing ragged clothes; her hair was messy, she had balloons in her hand and an innocent look on her unhappy face. She was selling balloons for a living, and she was just about ten years old.

By the look on her face, it appeared as if she hasn’t eaten anything for days. I wanted to give her some money so that she could feed herself but I didn’t. Mostly because if you provide these children with money, then they use that money and smoke cigarette.

I had a print out of a sketch I had drawn recently in my hand. Something happened that made me look deeply at the vast poverty in India.

Here’s the whole incident in the first person:

Little girl — Bhaiya ye kya hai? (Brother, what’s this?) she said pointing to the printed sketch I had rolled up in my hand.

Friend — Tumko kya matlab is se? Jao yaha se (What do you care? Go away from here) my friend said rudely.

Me — Arrey sketch hi toh dekhna chahti hai. Dikha dete hai. (She wants to see the sketch. Let me show her) I said smiling at the little girl.

Friend — Nai rehne do. (No leave it) she said and looked at the little girl furiously.

As I was sitting there, I watched the little girl silently go away. She was now trying to sell the balloons to a couple. This incident moved me deeply.

She was so young and innocent, but she had to beg. She was so full of childish innocence that my sketch grabbed her attention. For a moment, she forgot about the hunger and was focused curiously on the sketch. She was just a little child who should have been at some school. But here she was begging for food.

It reminded me of the horrific poverty in India. So many people die out of hunger. People sleep on the road. They eat stuff picked up from the garbage.

As I was sitting there, watching the little girl, I wanted to do something but couldn’t. It was like throwing out water from a boat that has a hole in it.

Poverty isn’t something that can be cured by one person or by a thousand. The government also can’t do it unless every citizen of the country helps. Unless we all do something, nothing is going to change.

A few weeks later, we both were again at the same mall. It was Dussehra. We went to a store inside the mall where my friend bought about a 100 chocolates. I asked her the reason she was buying those chocolates. I didn’t know the purpose of those chocolates then. But as we walked out of there and were on the road, my friend called the little children who were sitting by the road and handed them chocolates, as much as they wanted. I could see happiness spreading over their faces.

Seeing smiles on their faces made me happy. Genuinely. I felt the power of sharing happiness.

The little girl from the other day recognised us. She came up to my friend and said thank you. I smiled at my friend, and she smiled back as she handed some more chocolates to the little girl.

P.S. Here is that sketch I was talking about.