Why don’t we focus on the tragedies of hunger, malnutrition and the dying?

Where’s the promised so called development? No signs of it, when hunger and malnutrition and poverty hold sway, affecting hundreds and thousands amongst us

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Humra Quraishi

I can’t get over the recent video of the 8 year old boy sitting so very helplessly, holding the body of his 2 year baby brother, whilst his father Poojaram Jatav goes looking for an affordable vehicle which could carry the dead child to their village in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district.

The background to the tragedy is equally disturbing: the child was anaemic and unwell and so the father decided to take him to the district hospital in Morena but he was declared dead during the treatment. And when the father wanted an ambulance to get home with the body, the hospital simply refused and the father couldn’t afford to hire any of the private ambulances. It’s then he went looking for a vehicle, leaving the body with the older son who was found sitting with his baby brother’s body on the roadside. A local journalist captured the tragedy and as the video went viral, the police arranged for a vehicle for the father-son to get back their village with the dead remains of the child.

I have been wondering: What happens to the survival of Jatav’s family when it’s apparent they are on the brink? What happens to the survival of thousands of such families who cannot afford to get the basic food and medical care and assistance? Why don’t we focus on the tragedies directly related to hunger and malnutrition and the dying? Who all from the political and administrative lot ought to be held responsible for the deaths and destruction of a large percentage of our fellow citizens? For how long we can be fed and over-fed on a political diet saturated with deceit and distractions?

Where’s the promised so called development? No signs of it, when hunger and malnutrition and poverty hold sway, affecting hundreds and thousands amongst us. There’s apprehension and worry as the political rot seems to be spreading out. We sit anxiously wondering what more tragedies and disasters are bound to hit us!

In fact, right now, as one read what the acting President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe said (on Wednesday- 13 July,2022 ) - that there was a fascist threat to democracy in his country, I was reminded of Khushwant Singh’s warnings to us Indians. Khushwant’s words along the strain: Fascists have reached here … right inside our courtyard!

Khushwant had spoken of fascists here, several years back when he’d witnessed all those signs of the entry of fascist forces - violence unleashed in those systematic ways, intolerance , communal killings, destruction of age old institutions and values, coming up of new definitions to hoodwink the masses, unleashing of the mafia brigades out to destroy anyone who’d dared to question and query, deceit and distractions coming into play as governance fails…

Gentle genuine good beings still do exist!

What’s keeping the fabric still just about intact is the fact that even in these dark times, there exist gentle-genuine-good human beings. Taking you into the lanes and by lanes of Old Delhi, where I was taken by Sangeeta and Ashok Mathur. This couple reside right there, in Old Delhi.

I had met them quite by chance. Every year, on May 7, the Dagar family holds their annual Dhrupad concert at the India International Centre in memory of the famous Dhrupad artist, Zahir-udddin Dagar. This year too the concert was held last week , with several dhrupad artists, including Zahiruddin Dagar’s nephew and head of the Dhrupad Society of India, Wasifuddin Dagar paying homage, coming up with a soulful touching tribute.

Absorbing the soulful strains of Dhrupad, I suddenly realized I had to board the Metro as it was getting late to reach home so I quietly went up towards the front row where Wasif’s sister Qamar Dagar was seated – to tell her that I’d be leaving early as I had to board the Metro. She told me they’ll drop me back as they’d recently shifted to Gurgaon. Great for me, so sat back till the end of the concert.

And then as we were to start for our journey back to Gurgaon, dinner invitation for the Dagars from their friends, Sangeeta and Ashok Mathur. This couple wanted us to have dinner with them in one of the Old Delhi restaurants, as they reside in Old Delhi and are familiar with the eateries. So there we went along. The six of us– Wasifuddin Dagar, his sister Qamar Dagar who is the well-known calligrapher of New Delhi, Fauzia Dastango who is the famous dastango/ story-teller and she is perhaps the only female story-teller in the country, and of course, the hosts – Sangeeta and Ashok Mathur

I was meeting the Mathur couple for the very first time. Within minutes I was comfortable in their company as they carried such genuine warmth and those touching strains of the traditional culture. They seemed to know details to the lanes and by lanes of the Old city. Taking us to the Jawahar Hotel for dinner, ordering non- vegetarian fare for us but only daal and paneer for themselves as they were strict vegetarians, taking us for paan to an amazing paan shop – called ‘Shahi Andaaz’ where the paan is not handed to you but placed right into one’s mouth! They had so much to tell us about Old Delhi and so very gently put across. It was an amazing, fairytale experience.

The Mathur couple was subtle about their own khandaani background. It is later that I discovered they reside in a traditionally built haveli in Roshanpura, just off the Nai Sarak area of Old Delhi. Before I move on, it is significant to focus on Nai Sarak as it has always been famous and known for its book stores.

Proud and confident of their traditional heritage and of their Old Delhi roots, Mathur’s daughter Shubhra, is the fifth generation residing in the haveli which was built by built by Ashok’s grandfather’s uncle who had shifted to Delhi from Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur. Ashok detailed that though his ancestors were in different professions but traditional music and classical art forms always drew their attention. They were charmed by it all. To this day,

Mathurs hold classical music baithaks in their home and see to it that the cultural cum social and cuisine traditions of Old Delhi remain intact and vibrant and preserved …

After meeting Sangeeta and Ashok Mathur I was reminded of this verse of Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862) , the last Mughal Emperor who ruled from Old Delhi.

While reading his verse you realise how passionately he loved his country, Hindustan:

“Ode to Hindustan

Matchless is the soil of Hindustan

In it grow love, compassion, fidelity

As sure as the sun rises from the East

So surges from this land sincerity.

This is the true seed of Hind and from its earth

These fruits have spread across the world, far and wide.”

Views are personal

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