During my summer break from school and teaching, i decide to work with the homeless people in Delhi. I started working on a project which involved us trying to set up a community kitchen in the homeless temporary shelters so as to provide a proper and constant source of livelihood to the people who live in the shelter. We hoped to start the kitchen by initially serving the people living there itself and then move onto making it a co-operative wherein they could possibly supply food to a school or office. With this vision in mind, i started visiting the homeless shelter of Aman Biradari at Urdu Park near Jama Masjid, Delhi. Little did i know before starting that i was going to witness the worst scenes of destitution, helplessness, poverty that i couldn’t have even imagined to be ever possible. In the past one month, i have seen and met women who have been sold, raped on a regular basis for most of their lives, who have been born and have lived all their lives on the streets itself. I have met children as small as 6 year old who are addicted to drugs beginning from smaller addictions of adhesive smelling and extending to bigger addictions of Smack, Ganja etc. I have seen and interacted with kids who openly admit that they steal in order to survive, who have openly admitted to being raped or sexually molested by their peers or elders(and these are male children that i am talking about). I have seen the smaller kids of the women who live in the shelter playing in the dirt everyday, eating it and have seen them enjoying that life, making merry in those situations.
I have seen young wives been abandoned by their husbands after getting them pregnant, i have seen the local youth of the area circling the shelter in order to lead such rescued women away by deceit so as to sell them away at the brothels nearby, most of these women are really innocent village girls. Imagine the impact on the minds of these girls whose only fault was to run-away with their lover. I have seen drugs being sold to small kids in the open right in front of my eyes and have faced the helplessness of not being able to do anything about it.
These people have no formal government identity, in-fact in most cases the government doesn’t want to officially recognize them by issuing them any identity proofs for that would only add to her woes. The children there are mostly run-aways from their families and are one’s with enormous amount of courage for its this courage that got them to run away from their families. They mostly run away from drunkards father or from sexual or physical molestation that they experience. Some of them have also been be-fooled by their friends and left their villages in hope of a better city life. They are all fiercely independent people and self-respect/ego is one thing that you would find in abundance here. In-fact, i have learnt this through observation that their self-respect is the only thing that these people hold dear for its the only thing that gives them proof of their being alive,their individuality or the fact that they are humans as well.
Visiting Jama Masjid has been such a strong, mind-numbing experience for me. It has really shaken me up badly, the optimism, the positivity that i had towards the world has suddenly hidden itself somewhere. Interacting with the people there has exposed me to the worst shades that life has to offer, the worst forms that a human psyche can take. Most of the children and women have already seen the worst that life has to offer and thus, there is little that they are afraid of. However, despite all that so strong is the feeling of togetherness in these women that the moment that they see any other helpless women being troubled by men, they all group together to help her out. Trust me when i say this, these homeless women would have rescued many more women from prostitution and a life of slavery than most of our social activists today. Its the courage of these women and children and the never say die attitude which gets them through the conditions that they face. Some of them are there because of their fate and some because of their own doings, however, the only thing common in all is the fact that they have all given up all hopes of getting out of destitution. They have accepted their condition and learnt to live with it. They have been so badly battered by the society that the word HOPE is something that they don’t resonate with.
For my part, there are very rare days wherein i have returned from Jama Masjid without tears brimming out of my eyes, being bewildered and puzzled by the level of degradation there. However, day in and day out, the only thing that this project has made my resolute stronger for i can so feel the difference that a good leader at the proper place can bring for these people. I have become really weak though because of being exposed to all this in such a short interval. I have to really work on my inner-self so as to become strong enough to not be impacted by it while working towards eradicating it. I hope i get that strength.