Healing through love
A few days back - before Christmas - I woke up to see a Whatsapp message from a colleague, Preeti Papnai, to help her find poor children that she could donate woollen clothes to on her birthday. Given that all the schools are closed, I could not think of a single place where she could find a dozen and a half poor children and donate woollies without being mobbed.
Since I did not reply to her message, she called me a few times during the day from home, finding me busy every time by coincidence. At around 3pm she finally got hold of me and I remembered the orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity near my house. We asked them about their requirements and they asked for 20 sweaters and 24 pairs of socks.
With a budget of INR 6,000, that seemed quite difficult. Preeti had negotiated the price of sweaters down to Rs300 when her mother stepped in and literally ordered the shopkeeper to drop the price to Rs200.The shopkeeper protested that he couldn’t sell at his purchase price but Preeti’s mother gave him a lecture about the noble cause for which the sweaters were being sought, paid the money and took the sweaters with her, despite the shopkeeper’s pleas for more. With the money saved after buying the socks, Preeti bought a birthday cake to be shared and some pulses.
When we reached the orphanage and entered the children’s area, we saw a bunch of happy children preparing for Christmas. A seven- or eight-year-old girl got really excited when she saw us and squealed with joy. She caught Preeti and her sister Nisha’s hands and started dancing.
The embarrassed staff tried to pull her away but Preeti and Nisha were enjoying the little girl’s merrymaking. Preeti cut the cake and gave a piece to Muskaan, the still excited but obviously mentally challenged girl. Muskaan pulled Preeti by her hand and took her to another room and wiped Preeti’s hands and mouth clean. She then took Preeti to the kitchen and washed Preeti’s mouth with water. Still quite chirpy, Muskaan took Preeti and Nisha to her room and showed them all her toys.
When Preeti came out of the orphanage, she was really moved by the experience. She called me and said, “This is by far the best birthday I have ever had.” Muskaan had clearly delivered to Preeti a gift that was worth much more than what Preeti had given to the children. A normal, healthy and successful woman was bowled over by a young girl with challenges.
After I had spoken to Preeti, I reflected upon what had happened earlier in the evening. I thought about the hunger for love that most of us have, the shortage of it all around, the impact of that shortage and how easy it is to fill the gap.
Terrorists go around murdering people and killing themselves because they seek the love of the god that they have been told will be very happy with them if they killed the enemies of Islam. The juvenile rapist who killed young ‘Nirbhaya’ two years ago with an iron rod had perhaps seen a brutal life as he grew up on the streets. The ‘ghar wapsi’ activists clearly do not believe in humanity or love. They are driven by their hatred for other religions.
It is no surprise that the brutality and incidence of crimes have been going up as society has become increasingly nuclearised and indifferent to the plight of the disadvantaged. The upper and middle classes have moved so far into their self-created islands that their youth do not even see social, political and economic injustice any more. In face we teach our children to be very wary of anyone except the immediate family. Imagine the loss of belongingness and de-humanisation of others they experience.
What we need is a re-humanisation of communities. We need more people to come out of their bubbles along with their children and connect with each other and the under-privileged. Our children’s future is not secure unless life works for everyone else – with no one and nothing left behind.
What Preeti did was quite extraordinary. She did not treat the visit to the orphanage as that to a human zoo. She related with the children and they loved her back. We need more people to do that and create safety nets for the children who live on the street.
Very few people realise that lumpenisation of street children and those who live in such homes is the biggest security threat to our nations. In the absence of care by society, they end up being desensitised and angry – a perfect combination for someone to groom them into crime.
The writer is an IT professional and peace activist based in Ghaziabad, India.
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