Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Giving Hope and Help to the Distressed and Poor. Why I Like Oommen Chandy, and What Manmohan Singh Should Do.

They emerged out of the gloaming outside CBD Belapur station a few nights ago. The mother was the one who hailed me, soon the young son came forward, rather shyly. I asked what the matter was. I knew from their lost looks that they were from out of town and, moreover, totally lost. I have seen people like them all over Bombay, looking shocked and rendered immobile by the frenetic activity around them. They are basically good people wearing clothes that are frayed but washed. They show signs of obedience and good upbringing, unlike their city-bred contemporaries. They may have come, I assume, for some purpose, which wasn't served and, they are stranded with no money. All this is guess work.

Bingo! They are. I am right! See? Around 48 years in the city, I can make out who belongs and who doesn't. (Aside: people tell me they have seen me before. Obviously, since having been around for 48 years, you can add the nickname of "Most-seen-around-man-in-town" as one of my credentials. Aside over.) The son starts to speak hesitantly.

Well, he came to the city for a job, as promised. Once, in the city they couldn't find their employer. He has disappeared, pardon this cliche, into thin air. Vanished! Did they give any money?

"Yes we paid him Rs 10,000 upfront. The balance was to be deducted from the salary."

Nice ploy! Very clever and cunning way of conning people. I admire these guys (for it's always a guy). What guts, what gumption. 

"And you paid him?"

"Yes."

"Where do you come from?"

"Amravati."

"How will you go back?" There are three of them, the mother, and her two sons.

"We will board a train without tickets, we can't help."

As the bad reporter of news that I am, I forgot to ask them the reason they wished to leave their village. What was the cause? Drought? Displacement from dams? Micro-credit (Seems micro-credit is turning out to be the Credit Cards of the poor villagers, something they can be tempted to fall for and then suffer huge pangs about.) they couldn't repay. 

Since the night is old, and I am in a hurry I give them Rs 100 and walk away. I tell them to have something to eat, since they look famished. I help such people. I used to help such stranded people who walked into the office of Malayala Manorama, similarly duped by people who offered them jobs, when I was working there. I have helped families who have come from Gujarat, UP, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. I am a sucker for sob stories. Anyone can suck the blood out of me with a convincing story, which I think, is the trouble with people like me who write stories.

Anyway, I absolutely like Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The man is wonderful. He goes around villages offering money, help, and jobs to distressed people from the chief minister's fund. He knows that if he sits in an office and signs requests for help, no help will ultimately go to the poor in the villages. Instead the money will fund the holiday of some devious clerk. So he tours villages and gives help on the spot to the poor and really distressed. I don't know if it is our Christian upbringing. Really, I don't know.

I think that's what Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi should do.  

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

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