Squatting on the pavement, Rupa was scrabbling in the garbage which lay strewn on the road. She was using a small stick to poke and sort the garbage. Her eyes brightened as she spotted a cardboard box which had a couple of uneaten sweetmeats in it.
Hardly eight years old, Rupa was disheveled and unkempt. She quickly picked up the sweets from the box and ate them off her fingers.
Her sack half-full of plastic cans, bags and other reusables, she tugged it and trudged on. To another spilled over dustbin. As the darkness was deepening that Saturday night, she slowly headed home.
Home for her was a make-shift cement pipe, which was sawn into half. Her mummy asked, “How was the collection Rupa?” “So so,” she replied as she wearily sat down on the pavement.
Mum had brought some good leftovers from a wedding feast. All of them sat together and thanked the Lord for His mercies. They shared whatever they had scrounged and ate thankfully before going to sleep.
Another small girl was walking up that street, clutching tightly, her Dad’s finger. Mira was dressed plainly but in a clean frock. “Daddy,” she lisped, “Why are these people sitting on the pavement and eating? Don’t they have a home to go to?” “Shh! Mira,” said her Dad, “This pipe is their home. They are poor people.” “Really,” responded Mira,” How can they live in half a pipe?”
The darkness deepened as they kept walking along the long road to reach their rundown hut.
A slowly cruising car came across them. A bright little boy Danny was in that car. He watched the father and daughter trudging on the street, and exclaimed, “Daddy, Daddy, Why are these people walking so wearily? Don’t they have a car?” His Dad looked up Mira and her Dad briefly and replied,” Danny, Not all people can afford a car. These people you see are poor. So they have to either walk or take a bus.” “Is that so,” piped little Danny, “I never knew that. I thought all people had cars.”
Early the next day, Sunday, even before the early shafts of dawn gleamed through the morning’s mist, Rupa and her mum got up. They wore the best clothes they had and went to a small makeshift hall nearby. It was their church. They took brooms and carefully swept up the hall and spread the worn carpets neatly. Then they sat in the front and began to worship the Lord even as the morning worshippers trickled in.
“Daddy, I want us to go to that Church we went to last Christmas. I liked the Sunday school there.” Pouted Mira. “Well, OK Lets go.” Reluctantly her Dad replied. They got ready and went there. Once there, Mira happily ran off to the Sunday school, leaving her Dad at the Church. He moodily went and sat huddled in a back pew. “Oh No, I have to listen to this boring sermon and wait for Mira” he thought before he dozed off.
“Its past Nine O clock Danny, Why don’t you get up?” shouted Danny’s Dad. Danny merely stirred and rolled on his luxurious bed. “Oh! Daddy why are you disturbing me on a beautiful Sunday morning. Why don’t you let me sleep late?” “OK son, sleep then” said Dad as he walked back to slump on his sofa in the living room. “Will the heroine in this sitcom continue her affair with that handsome hulk?” thought he as he immersed himself fully into the drama unfolding on the TV.
Rupa’s family: scrounging around for food and supping on leftovers, poor indeed. But spiritually? Mira’s family: better off but they hardly bother to worship God. Danny and his Dad, both lazing around on a Sunday morning. All they want they have, Or do they?
Who is really poor? It is for you, dear reader, to decide!
© 2004: Dr.M.A David S Kumar