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In The Midst Of Life, We Are In Poverty by Fiza Pathan

February 16, 2015

In The Midst Of Life, We Are In Poverty


Yesterday, a movie date with my friends was cancelled. So my mother and maternal uncle decided to take me out to a bookshop attached to a café to cheer me up after we sold the tickets at Metro Cinema. Within half an hour we were in town outside one of the best cinemas and my maternal uncle Blaise and Narayan (whose car we hire), got out to sell the tickets while my mother and I waited in the car. Mother fell asleep while I decided to stare out of the window…and what I saw made me clench my fists in rage….

College students from well to do families all strutting about the place with baggy jeans and fancy purses, necking their boyfriends and at their knees…a little girl in rags…her hair matted and her whole body full of sores…begging them for some money or food…her mother lying on the footpath next to her in a filthy sari cradling a naked infant whose shrieks of hunger I could hear from the air conditioned car. The poor woman’s man slept on the footpath, barechested, his dignity covered in a sack cloth and I watched as the moviegoers ignored the little girl and went into the theatre…they averted their gazes, it seemed they were ashamed of looking at the beggar girl. However, I just kept on mutely staring…at the puss boils and the sweat under the little girl’s armpits until Blaise and Narayan returned happily as they had managed to sell all the tickets.

We then drove off towards Kitab Khana a beautiful bookstall where I had my very first book launch. As we were getting out of the car…I turned around and froze in place. Behind the car in an empty square resided the poorest of the poor; a young mother washing her little boys hair with a grimy piece of passed on soap, an elderly lady taking out the nits from a preteen’s hair with a comb with a little teeth left on it, a pair of twins no more than two….naked and dirty gathering plastic bags littered on the street by the Kala Ghoda visitors, a young man warming himself by a futile fire of little twigs and his sister next to him applying mud on her corns that were aching her, a ten year old girl with a baby (whose gender I could not recognize) in her arms begging at the signal her eyes honey brown with whip marks on her back which lay bare.

“Baby do you want to have baked cheese cake or a muffin?” said my mother seeing what I was looking at and turned me away from the pitiful scene. In the café where the elite were sipping their creamy coffees I played with my chocolate brownie and that rhetoric question came up in my mind while I did so:

“How can I eat while others starve?” I couldn’t eat my brownie so I gave it to Narayan.

I went on with my life choosing books from a shelf in the prestigious book stall…but outside I knew what lay as a testament to not the country’s shame…but also my shame. ‘In the midst of life, we are in death’ so often is the saying ascribed to a mentally sound life. Money, property, possessions, jewels, and cars you leave behind and then on the shoulders of four you are taken to your ultimate home. However, don’t we also leave behind the deeds we were supposed to perform and have let slip past us?

In the filth of the poor have I seen my indifference mercilessly pointed out to me, I am guilty for have I not neglected the ones who should also mean something to me?

In the midst of life, we are in death but we walk along in life blind, deaf and mute until our failings as human beings bring us back to the ultimate reality…oh my country, your scars are more than this holy earth can bear. Mother India, where are you found? In the sports cars, in the rich bungalows, in the elite hotels, in the swanky designer stalls or are you there naked and covering your shame with a cast away sack cloth to preserve the little semblance of your dignity you have left while we all ignore you and pass you by?

What must I do Mother India to make good the wrongs I have committed against you with the worst crime which abounds our land…the sin of indifference? The rich are getting richer while the poor are dying for food and shelter. What must I do Mother India; why have you grown silent? Are the wails of the poverty stricken infant of the night too loud for me to hear your holy counsel?

Answer this wretch of a woman Mother India for I am groaning in pain which cannot be treated. I bury myself in work but nothing satisfies me. I do not belong here but somewhere else near you…tending to your wounds.

As I take the plunge I will not turn back again. I will write of the injustice done to you with the aid of my pen until the screams of the poor die out and then I shall hear the sweet song of your lullaby. For as you sow so shall you reap the prophet says…in the midst of life, we are in poverty…spiritual, emotional, moral and psychological poverty…it is time to arise, it is time for equality.

Copyright © 2015 Fiza Pathan

From → Uncategorized

  1. There are tears in my eyes as I read this, as I understand there are dynamics at play with social levels, income or class levels and religious beliefs.

    Half a world away from you, someone in Canada can address her own indifference while walking along city streets, to make a small difference by donating to social aid organizations and food banks. You are a kind soul who cares yet don’t let it become your personal burden. Look for the signs of how you can help and when. Hugs.


    • Thank you for understanding. The situation in India is grim but we are fighting for a better life for our fellow countrymen. Support & awareness is what we require 🙂

  2. This is such an honest, poignant story, Fiza. It exposes the poverty of spirit that is so easy to accept – our comfort while others suffer, not necessarily because we are heartless, but more often because we feel helpless to make a difference given the magnitude of suffering we see.

  3. Fiza, this is the harsh reality of not only you, but me and many more.
    This line shook me… “In the midst of life, we are in death”.
    Yes, we are…. Our mindset doesn’t change because we follow the mantra of.. Kuch bhi hone do, “Chalta hai”. We avoid such situations and people as we can’t handle their pain, their suffering.

  4. I totally respect you for writing this honest post.. relate to it !

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