Another New Year, another day of strife for Delhi’s homeless

January 1st, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) New Year resolutions, loud music, parties or just cosy chats around the bonfire… while much of Delhi rung in 2009 in every which way with family and friends, many thousands of homeless in the capital spent a wakeful night in the biting cold waiting for another day of strife to dawn. As another New Year’s Eve came and went in a blur of greetings and thoughts of what lies ahead in 2009, for the capital’s pavement dwellers it was just another occasion for the injustices to hit home.

“What will New Year mean for an old and blind man like me? I just want a blanket to save me from the cold,” said Babulal, who sleeps on a pavement at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, while trying to battle the winter chill with a small fire burning beside him.

“New Year is for the rich and not poor like us. I just pray for a new blanket,” said the 57-year-old man, his eyes misting over with tears.

As far as he was concerned, 2009 was just another year, another set of numbers to mark time in a life full of the everyday struggle to survive.

“It is just another day,” said another homeless man, Mohammad Salim.

Blind and with only tattered clothes to protect him from the dipping temperatures, the 70-year-old said: “We don’t want anything sir, we just want food twice a day. I have not eaten anything from two days and my blanket was also stolen last night.”

“For us nothing matters besides food and survival,” added the old man as he held on to the hand of another homeless person.

Salim was not the only one who spent the last night of the year fighting off thieves.

Anil Kumar, 35, who came here from Allahabad a decade ago for work but took to drugs, was sitting under a flyover near Hanuman Mandir at Yamuna Bazaar reduced to tears after hoodlums snatched Rs.100 from him.

All he had left was a torn blanket and a bundle of ‘bidis’ to fight the numbing cold.

“I hope someone will give me a new blanket today. But I fear that those boys will return and snatch it away too. Even police doesn’t help,” said Kumar, who earns a living by driving a rickshaw.

Vijay, 37, who sleeps on the pavement at Delhi Gate near the walled city, said that a special day like New Year only intensifies their sorrow.

“Days like this just remind us of our poverty and helplessness,” he said, echoing the desperation of tens of thousands of him who are a stark pointer to the growing disparities between the rich and the poor.

It was not always like this.

“I have been living here for 15 years. I was an adopted son, but my family deceived me and left me while I was very young. Since then I have been surviving by working in parties. But those have become very few.”

But hope lives on even through the chilly nights of desperation.

Kajal, 10, and her younger sister, Sunita, 7, sell balloons at a south Delhi traffic signal in the evening and go to school in the morning.

They too have a New Year wish.

“On New Year, I just wish that people purchase a lot of balloons from me so that I can study hard and help my family to survive,” Kajal, dressed in a torn frock, said.

Echoed her sister: “Till now, no one has brought flowers but I hope in the next few hours all of them will be sold.”

Both want to join the police so that they can provide for a home for their family.

So, the next time a young girl comes tapping on your rolled up window thrusting a bunch of flowers buy it… It could feed not just her family but her dreams as well.

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