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While I sat on the second computer, right beside my boss, staring at the screen, I wondered what I could do to pass my time until Hemanth came to my office. In that not-so- gloomy and not-so-bright office, I typed in the search bar “yahoo” just to read random stuff, trust me! I saw this story that said
Every day she writes in midday meal diary: ‘No one ate today’
As I went ahead and read the story, it made me feel inhuman, like an animal. Like a creature with no brain to think. Here’s what I read:
Radhamma is in charge of the mid-day meal scheme introduced by the Indian government to attract students to attend school. She was the head cook at the Government Higher Primary School in Kagganahalli village in the Kolar district of Karnataka.
Kagganahalli is a small village with 101 families and a population of 452. As many as 40 percent of the villagers belong to Scheduled Tribe communities, 18.14 percent are Dalits like Radhamma. The OBC Kurubas and landholding Vokkaligas make up the rest. In January 2014, there were 118 students at the school, from Classes I to VIII. Since her appointment in February 2014, 100 have left.
The remaining 18 continue to study in the school on the condition, laid down by their parents, that Radhamma does not make the mid-may meal. You wouldn’t believe why! Radhamma was a Scheduled Caste. SO? That was the first thing I asked myself. So what? She has the same number of legs, hands, and eyes as you and I do.
Coming back to her story, Radhamma earned 1,700 rupees (which most spend in a day) per month, and that 1,700 rupees were for her family of seven. A woman- uneducated, jobless, seven people in her family, what could she do but take up the work she found suitable? The pressure at school increased day by day.
According to Karnataka government rules, a school can be shut down if it has less than 10 students. If the school shut down, a dozen teachers, peons, cleaners, guards, and Radhamma would lose their jobs. Just because a person from the SC cooked food, parents from a better background than hers stood against it. Even if we assume the government would only stop the mid-day meal scheme in that school, what about Radhamma? She’d lose her job. After all, who would assure you a job where you were paid 1,700 rupees? What about her family?
The little kids in this village dreamed of nothing fancy but only a meal enough to fill their stomachs. Maybe an old pair, as old as your grandparents, dreaming of living life a little longer, or maybe just hoping their children would have enough money to eat twice a day. What about Radhamma herself, who sacrificed her meals and listened to all that people around her at school speak ill of her because she belonged to a different caste and yet continued to work for her family.
This is a story of just one family in one village, one of the 27 districts in one of those 29 Indian states. Believe it or not, families and lives like this exist in every tiny street. You might not know, but they may even exist somewhere in your colony. Every nook and corner, in every state, in every city, everywhere. Amidst us.
Every place we go, they exist there too. ‘They’ do not mean the Scheduled Caste or any other backward caste. One cannot certainly be called poor or rich based on his caste. I know several people who might belong to one of these above-mentioned castes but are a lot richer than I could think. I also know people of the same caste, like Radhamma, who would do anything to feed her family just twice a day with the simplest dal and rice or maybe just loaves of bread.
I do not think twice about buying a denim which costs 2000 bucks. Most of us don’t. This doesn’t make me bad. If I can afford something, I buy it. If I can’t, I feel bad and forget it. But their lives aren’t as easy as ours. Not being able to eat twice a day is not something they could forget. Not having access to water (forget pure and drinking water) is not something easy to ignore. When I look at people flying abroad, now and then, or look at people wearing good clothes, I tell my best friends about it, about this story that I read, and I tell them how I feel like I have nothing else in life.
I know it for the fact that every 8 out of 10 friends I have, weep and sob for things that they could not buy or have. Oh well, 10 out of the 10 things they cry for are not even a necessity. But, if that one thing out of 10 is not ours, the world is over! While we spend thoughtlessly on unnecessary things, have we ever stopped and looked at their lives? Yes, a life that Radhamma lives. Her children? Their brother and sister, crying every night for food. Filling their stomachs with water. Eating the leftovers of a fast food center. Could we for once think of their lives? For a moment? Could we sacrifice 1/10th of our pocket money to feed a small child who is starving for the last 3 days? Could we not refuse to buy a branded shoe and buy a little kid a sweater that would keep her warm in the winters? Could we pledge to buy a pair of clothes (not a branded one) every time we buy it for ourselves, for another little human who looks at you each day when you pass by her on a busy road? Could we not complain about not having a million things that we could live without? Could we feed a family of three instead of eating at a costly restaurant?
Could we try to make the world a place for everybody to live? Could we make a human, exactly like us, SMILE? Could we?
There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
– Mahatma Gandhi