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Poverty is like a crime you did not commit.

By Jayasree Chakravarty

I sit on Seat Number 10F of the Druk airlines, after reading another article about  maimed children in a village in India. The microphone crackles as the stewardess tells us to stay buckled due to the turbulent weather. The plane shakes violently beneath me. This is the first time I have encountered turbulence on a flight and I can’t say it’s pleasant. It makes me nervous. I have my earplugs on, to prevent myself from getting annoyed because my ears are blocked.

I have read a hundred articles about poverty and maimed children all over the world. It used to make me sad before but now I don’t feel anything. It’s just the way life is: full of harsh realities. On one side you have Mukesh Ambani who lives in his 27 storeyed house, Antilla, in Mumbai; on the other hand, just a few hundred meters from that monstrosity, you have the poorest of people who do not even have access to one meal a day. My face reads no expression after reading the article on how almost every child is maimed in a certain village in Jhark due to inhaling radon gases from the nearby uranium factories. They are born as normal toddlers and then slowly the life is sucked out of their limbs and they are left crawling around. They will never be able to stand straight again, they will never be able to walk or run down the fields like before.

Poverty in my country is a disease – an epidemic , which was ‘eradicated’ a while ago. India is a beautiful country, with beautiful sceneries and heartless people. I am just 14 years old. Who gives me the right to speak this way about people when I can’t do anything myself? I have always wanted to help people like them, everyone needs encouragement. It’s normal to feel upset when you read depressing things, I feel upset too. At least I used to. Then one day I stopped. I read and forget as do thousands of people.  Out of the 1.7 billion people that live here, 30 million live in extreme poverty, 80 million live without adequate sanitation, water and food.

I study at an international school in Singapore. A common thing I hear everyday  is – ‘‘I really want to go to India but my mother won’t let me because it’s very unsafe for women.’’ I feel angry when I hear this but then realise its true. I am scared to wear clothes of my choice in India because of the constant stares I receive from people on the streets, in public places. India is place with a rapidly growing cases of poverty, hunger, starvation, rape and illness. Everybody is too occupied with their own lives to be able to engage with people who need some comfort or encourage to keep going.

Local hospitals do not provide facilities to take care of people in severe need of help. As writer Lewis Thomas once said, gone are the days when doctors or people in general had time to sit and lend a smile to people in need. Gone are the times when people could sit and converse with each other.

I wonder what it is like to live in a dark, dingy room with no light, no electricity, no water and no food. What is it like to wake up one day and find yourself unable to walk, what is it like to have someone close to you die because they got paralyzed due to something beyond their control- because they inhaled radon gases. These are things we can imagine but never visualize, somethings are best left alone. Buried deep where people will not find them. Poverty is one such. True, our government is trying to help people in need but there are always con men who are out to deceive and cheat others, just to provide for themselves. We need to care for people around us, then maybe those people who are left crippled today might see some hope of recovery tomorrow. We have a long way to go before we are able to make these millions of lives even a little better.

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