I jogged across the Harbour Bridge into the city this morning and passed a homeless man asleep on a bench. Homeless in Sydney? Yes, you’ll be shocked at the numbers. It slips under our radar – their unseen faces and unheard voices. Drug problems? Kicked out of their homes? Debt? I don’t know the reasons. But for the entire run, my head was filled with images of millions living below the poverty line back home in Bombay...
There is no welfare system in India. If you don’t have a job or home, you’re on the streets. Or on the trains, or under flyovers, or outside glitzy shopping malls... Totally at the mercy of the elements and dependent on those better off than you. You don’t know where your next meal is coming from or if you’ll find a cardboard box to construct a make-shift ‘home’ for the night.
On the other hand, if you belong to the general public, you had better develop a tough hide. A shield to safeguard your emotions. So that you don’t become a quivering mass at sight of a ragged woman with an emaciated newborn at the breast. So that you don’t dissolve into tears when a streetkid scrubs your car windscreen at a traffic light to earn a few rupees. So that you don’t baulk when you see a beggar whose open sores are covered with flies. It’s a necessary coping mechanism or else you would be having a mental breakdown every single day.
Another incident occurred when I was a teen. A little beggar girl and her even tinier brother used to walk around our neighbourhood every Saturday, singing Bollywood hits at the top of their voices. Grubby faces, torn clothes, bare feet. We often gave them food. One Saturday, I presented them with two pairs of slippers, very chuffed at my initiative. The following Saturday they turned up as usual - sans slippers! "What happened?" I asked. “Didi (Sister),” she explained in Hindi, “If we wear our slippers, no one will give us any money.”
Very depressing, isn’t it? But this post is not about doom and gloom. I’m hoping it makes you realise how much you have. And to be grateful for your blessings – no matter how simple, no matter how small.
Did anything happen today that makes you feel thankful? Since I’ve brought up the topic, I’ll go first:
*I’m grateful that I had taken our raincoats and the pram cover to school today or else we would have been drenched!
*I’m grateful for leftover quiche – it meant I didn’t have to cook dinner.
*I’m grateful to B for giving the kids their baths and washing their hair.