Festival Shopping amidst the

Dazzling lights blinded

Most of the shoppers

As they passed me by

– The veil of poverty hid my face

From the glare of opulence

But little children invariably looked askance

At my feeble frame,

Curious, but willing to help,

Only to be shushed by their chaperons

Be it parents or uncles or aunts

training cold hearts out of the little ones

they hold their hands with….

While

My outstretched hand

Asked only for a little charity

To celebrate my diwali

With my companions,

Kind hearted stray dogs,

Mostly.

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31 responses »

  1. samson sundeep says:

    Om, it is indeed a life transforming poem to many who read it.
    Since more than a year my wife and i began to pass on a packet of meal prepared extra in the morning to any needy person that we come across as we go out every day.One day we could not find enough time to stop the car anywhere to hand over the meal packet on our way to office and back and we missed it out from our mind till we hit the dining table at 10pm. We immediately went back into car and went out to reach someone on the roads to give.believe me it took one hour for us to finally spot an old lady under a tree and when we passed the packet she said i am looking for someone since morning to help me i am so hungry.
    om,i felt so guilty that i made some one wait for a whole day to give her what she is due.
    i think sharing should not only be on festival days but any time and as many times that we can afford to.
    please continue to write and inspire.

    • Thank you, Sam!
      Actually, I believe that everything is so inter related and inter dependent on each other in this universe. It is so nice that you are giving food to someone in need. In this respect, it would not be entirely out of context to point out something – Some of my friends who read this poem have pointed out that we should not encourage begging. In my view, the poem is more about the aspect of sharing what we have – and we normally share only with the needy – since it is they who NEED the food, or the money. In that respect, I really admire you for being able to do what you are doing – Sharing a meal a day. Nice!

      I also would like to mention that once Mother Teresa went to a very affluent area in Los Angeles, and was horrified to find so many needy people. So, poverty is not confined to countries like India. Also, even if a country is rich in material wealth, it can be very poor in spirit – this is what is slowly happening in India now – the growth rate is so high, and the economy is on a high – money is everywhere – but people have become more materialistic than before! – This I discovered personally last month, when I went to assist one of my friends, who was trying to gather money for a kidney transplant of a poor, 19 year old boy – the people who gave money for the operation, were themselves not rich – but the very rich, did not WANT to give at all, even though they could easily give!

  2. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you.

  3. Dear Vimala Ramu Madam,

    I have enjoyed your posts in 4indianwoman.com. And so, after a long time, I saw your post here.

    I know that your blog is not exactly about the Alwars. But when I first opened it, I saw the picture of the Alwar (It was later replaced with a keyboard picture) – If I am right, that was either Peyalwar or Boothathalwar! ( I wonder why they named them like that) and I exited the blog quietly. Sorry! I just now read your blog fully again. Nice, and humourous as always! 🙂

  4. deepika says:

    A very heart touching poem.

  5. vimala madon says:

    A touching poem on poverty in this land of extremes. As Hari has commented, we are so enterprising that even poverty is exploited to make others richer. Much as I would like to, I too don’t believe handing our charity on the roads by succumbing to emotional blackmail by these children’s handlers helps. I do give to causes where the money really goes where it should. Actually most beggars run away from beggars’ homes because it entails working for your living and restriction of freedom.

    • Thanks for the comment, Madam.

      As I explained to Hari’s comment earlier, the focus is more on the aspect of “sharing” during a festival, which is becoming absent in today’s IT rich world!

      The young, resurgent India that we see today, Madam, is more selfish than it was yesterday – this is how I see it, even though what you say about organised begging, esp in cities, is very true, and I also beleive that we should not encourage begging.

  6. B.GANGADHARAN says:

    I HAVE READ AND ENRICHED .THANKS A LOT

  7. vimala ramu says:

    Very moving.

    • Thank you. Alwars and Nayanmars are very serious subjects, and so I did not venture to comment on your blog! 🙂

      • vimala ramu says:

        My dear Sir,
        If I may point out, my blog was not at all about Alvars. I am not erudite enough to translate their Divya prabandhams or discus the merit of their compositions. My blog was purely a narration of the travails I underwent in translating the LIFE HISTORY of the Alvars written by a well read man in Kannada to English. For one, the Kannada text was very complicated. Secondly, I wanted my translation to be Online so that I could share it with my friends. So, the blog was purely about how I was obsessed with the job of Translation and computerisation.

  8. G Rajasekaran says:

    You have captured exactly what i used to feel during every christmas. My childish joy would melt the moment i see
    children in dire straits . This diwali i waited with sweets and fireworks that were in excess at home, wishing that some underprivilleged kids would knock at us. But none turned up. Nothing stirs me as badly as seeing in a single shot children dressed in filthy rich clothes and others in tatters.

    G Rajasekaran
    The New Indian Express

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Actually, festivities would be more of a celebration if more people shared their wealth.

      And you are right when you say that it is very depressing to see rich and poor children side by side. The children are not to blame, though – it is mostly the parents who teach the children to ignore poverty.

  9. Shernaz says:

    A touchingly conveyed concern. I too loved the line Beyniaz has quoted.

  10. Beyniaz says:

    ‘training cold hearts out of the little ones

    they hold their hands with…’ you have put this through very beautifully.

  11. A.Hari says:

    Thanks Om for this nice one.

    I came to know through one such person who was begging that they are employed by a gang leader. The money we give goes only to the gang leader with a very nominal compensation given to the real beggar. Though they have money, the children are not fed properly so as to maintain their look so as to evoke sympathy from people like us.
    Even the children are ‘hired’ and not their own.

    Similar is the story of beggars at traffic signals. They are being operated by one group who allots them areas etc.

    I think the we miss the fact that the ‘out stretched’ hand belongs to outsiders who want to exploit our sympathy for earning quick money.

    The story of boys selling ‘sundal’ at beach is similar. Once I saw a van came and dropped 15 boys at beach to sell sundal. Their leader collects all the money and pays very nominal amount to these boys for their hard work.

    This is chennai….

    • Thanks, Hari.

      You have brought up an interesting aspect of charity.

      Where are we more concerned with, the giver or the taker? is the question. You are right when you say that gangs operate and how they collect money by area – all this started happening, because of apathy.

      And second, a person starts begging only because he/she have exhausted all other forms of earning. Again, social apathy to blame? This is so true of someone who has been in jail, and who comes out and wants to reform – No one will give him a job, no?

      But If all the people, collectively decide that nobody will encourage begging, begging will certainly vanish – and that will be so nice.

      But this poem is basically about the festivity of Diwali – about “sharing” – and how, even when people are loaded with riches, they don’t want to part with some paltry money in charity in the spirit of the festival (as someone else commented earlier, people shy away or shirk away as if it doesn’t exist) – be it Diwali, Christmas, or any other festival – It is this aspect that the poem seeks to focus, since any festival in any religion, is basically about sharing one’s blessings – be it wealth or even a smile!

  12. Sneha says:

    Your poem reminds me somehow of Arun Kolkatkar’s ‘Heart of Ruin’ in the Jezuri series.
    Festivals have different connotations for different people, and one’s way of celebrating it may be totally unlike the others.
    I can today say that I was right whenever I told people that putting your emotions in words is an art only a few people can do!

  13. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Along with the per capita income, the disparities have also shot up…..and somehow a tendency to shirk or shy away from poverty….an odd psychology!

    • Today’s very successful young India, comprising mostly of corporate executives, is so busy with their own lives that they rarely have time to think about social issues like poverty. I have some of my friends in the software industry, and their reaction to poverty is always so predictable – they say, give me a worthy cause, and I will contribute – unfortunately, they won’t even bother to see whether their money is going to the right person. They have given charity,and that is all.

      You have rightly identified the tendency – to shirk or shy away from poverty.

  14. Sonal Shree says:

    As rightly said by Gandhiji, poverty is the worst form of violence- depicted so well through this poem.

    • Today, in India, more than ever, the divide is more glaring because India is really a powerful economy in the world today, and our per capita incomes have really shot up – and still, there is absolutely no change in the lives of the BPL families. Thanks for reading.

  15. Irene says:

    Very nice and moving.

  16. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Words fail as I read these lines. Heartrending and extremely touching!

    • Thanks. I actually saw someone during Diwali, as I was struck in a traffic jam, and I was able to see this person along with a stray dog, WAITING for someone to offer him something, and NONE were doing so, just outside a huge textile shop. I felt so sad – and I was unable to get out of my car and do something for him in the traffic.

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