No country for old men !!
It's the Indian Independence day. Sitting on the road,with cars and rickshaws whizzing past him,dangerously, is a white haired, old, emaciated man, his frail arm stuck out, begging for money, food....any thing.
Others, mostly the blue collared workers, throw in a few coins in his battered steel cup but not one car stops...not even a single one, to give alms to this frail man obviously unable to work, not even on the day our country celebrates Independence.
As our reporter starts talking to him with our photographer clicking pictures......a small crowd gathers...curious, eager to give bytes and quotes but no help.
His name is Randa Pawar (A Marathi Manoos!) aged 90 and suffering from Throat and Mouth Cancer and Blurry vision.
His wife, Sakuna Bai,60, and he live in a 10 by 10 feet room. His elder son Samarao Pawar,22 lives with them while his younger son, Nagesh Pawar,20,who suffers from some mysterious ailment, one fine day, left home, never to return.
“My wife has cancer too.......thankfully we were both was operated on, at The Tata Memorial Hospital around the same time 12 years back. The operation was free and I am grateful to them,but we had to buy our own medicines. My wife is okay now but I am still sick”said Pawar
With no support from the sons, and left to fend for themselves.....Pawar's wife stays at home while he spends the day begging, trying to collect enough money to buy food and medicines including injections.
The medicines he needs are expensive costing Rs 100 per tablet. Since climbing stairs is a very big problem for him, how he manages to get on the train for the hospital,is anybody's guess!!!
Where does he stay? “In the same place I have been staying from 1947, Damu Nagar,Mahindra gate number 2”
Our reporter, Meeta Nair asked him a few questions....Did he know what day it was?
“Monday” he replied.
I'ts Independence Day, the day India gained Independence !!!.
The poor man is mumbles... “I didn’t know”. Well how old is he? “90” he said.
So he must have been around that time in 1947? “Yes I was.” Does he remember anything? “Not much” he says.
What does Independence day mean to him? “Nothing” he says
“What CAN it mean to me??.....look at my state, the Government gives me no assistance....I am so weak, some times I don't have the strength to go out and beg. Plus the Policemen beat me up when they catch me begging.” “NO!!”he says, dismissively, “ Aaazadi Divas means nothing to me"
Our reporter, Meeta asks him.Would he mind posing for the camera......holding the Indian flag?
Despite all his earlier complaints, Pawar not only agrees but insists on standing up......to give respect to the Tiranga.
Our Photographer,Naresh Das, and Reporter, Meeta Nair, watch silently as he struggles to his feet, his legs quivering as he faces the lens.
His speech becomes labored........“It hurts when I talk” he says indicating a spot on his neck. “The suffering is too much. There is no point in living any more” he trails off....
Does he need any immediate help besides money and food?
“Steps.”...he says stumping our reporter completely, “I need help with climbing steps”.
It's a cool,cloudy day, “How does Hot Daal-Rice sound? Would he like some?”
“Yes” he nods eagerly and waits patiently. He accepts the money and the steaming plate of Dal-Rice and the money that I send across and promptly digs in hungrily, asking if he can come the next day, for some more food.
Watching him wolf down the meal, I wipe away a tear as I think of all those Independence Day, self patting speeches, given all across India, by our supposedly well meaning Politicians, put there, by the Smart Indian Junta.... but somewhere, in the course of “The Great Indian Development,” millions of people like Pawar (both Marathi and Non-Marathi) have some how slipped through the huge cracks in the system and fallen into a pit of hell.
May God help them!! I don't think any one else will !!!