I stopped and stared in shock. Those around me also stared, but they were not looking at what I saw, they were looking at me. “What’s wrong?” asked a friend. “How could this happen here?”
I asked. We were in Manhattan, the financial capital of the US. It was near midnight and we were returning from the theatre after watching a Broadway show along with the rich and famous.
As we walked outside I’d seen the man. He’d wrapped himself with cardboard boxes and was trying to keep warm, sleeping on the windowsill of a closed store. New York gets chilly in the night and he had used those boxes to keep the cold away. “But you have lots of poor in India,” said somebody in the group, not happy with the way I was looking at the poor man.
“We are a poor country!” I said. Yes, it’s not unusual to see dozens, sometimes hundreds of people sleeping on the pavements in India. They have nowhere else to lay their heads. In Mumbai, every square inch of space comes at a premium and finally it’s the pavements that make their beds for them.
But in New York! Even as I touch New York, I am going to move away from there. My reason for writing this piece is not to criticize the American, but to look at that same callous part of the affluent American we all have in us.
A few years ago, in a housing society in the financial capital of our country a chairman passed a resolution that every member pays fifty rupees a month that would be used as a fund to educate the children of the support staff; the ones who swept the colony, the watchmen, those who pumped the water, etc.
The next day, many rich members who had not attended the meeting walked over to the chairman’s house and protested, “How could you do this? You think we have nothing else to do with our money, but support the poor?” Just fifty rupees!