Viji Narayan writes in to The Lede
It is a tough time for all.
Our Prime minister had declared a complete lock down of the country to fight against the Corona demon.
Our lives has been inside the shell of our homes, for a long time now. Uncertainty and fear of the virus loom large everywhere.
Today when I opened my eyes in the morning, first question that came to my mind was, ”What will Anbarasi eat today?”
Settling down in Coimbatore after my partner’s retirement, we were getting ready to spend the remaining of our life peacefully, if possible do some meaningful work.
It was no wonder that I grabbed the first opportunity that I got through an NGO to work with small kids in the government schools. My job was to make them speak English and empower them in the long run to face this competitive world.
It was just my cup of tea and I was passionate about it.
Anbarasi happened to be a dusky little girl of seven with a beautiful smile.
Every morning she would greet me with a loud and clear “Good morning mam”, the minute she would see me. It was fun interacting with her because she was a very imaginative child.
Whatever learning difficulties she had, started disappearing when I put in a little more effort.
On that particular day, I started my class as usual.
I was surprised to note that Anbarasi was rather timid. As time progressed Anbarasi had sought my permission to go to the rest room twice and once to drink water.
Definitely she was not concentrating. Finally I asked her why she was so restless.
She answered in a subdued tone that she went out only to check if the noon meals served in the school was getting ready.
It was only eleven in the morning. Jokingly I asked her “Are you so hungry this early? What did you have for breakfast?”
Her reply just froze me.
In a very matter of fact tone she explained to me how her mother was about to give her some “pazhaya soru” (previous day’s cooked rice soaked in water through the night) as was their routine, found that the rice had gone stale and hence discarded it.
This eventually made Anbarasi and her sibling to go without breakfast that day.
All this she said in a very normal tone, as you say sun rises in the east.
It shattered me.
I was able to understand the pain in her mother’s heart when she had to send her children to school with empty stomachs.
The fact that how little I knew about these children made me ashamed. I felt guilty about the two idlis I had eaten that morning.
Now coming to the present times, in these tough days of Corona and complete lock down I cannot help worrying about, children like Anbarasi.
Her parents are daily wage earning labourers. what will they do if they are forced to go without work and food for days together?
We live in a country of paradoxes.
We have greatest slums in the world along with super smart and super rich people. Luxurious homes and super luxurious cars around us are a common sight. Do we have super philanthropists among these Richie rich?Can we come across a Bill Gates like person here? I doubt.
But this is the time for these rich people to show the world that they are not only super rich but also super beautiful human beings.
Will they do it? Will Anbarasi and her family eat three square meals a day?
When will Anbarasi start schooling again? (all these so called online classes are not happening for kids like her).
How is she going to remember these pandemic days when she grows up?
So many unanswered questions loom around us every day.
Viji Narayan is a postgraduate in English from Kerala University. She is a voracious reader and an occasional blogger. Now a cancer survivor, she is an English language trainer and freelance writer. All opinions are the author's alone and not necessarily that of The Lede's.)