I wanted to share this post on 1st January only but never got time. I wrote this post in pieces over last 5 days. Forgive if it bores you a lot or lacks literary beauty. Images are taken from various sources.
It was blistering cold outside when we, me and my friend Reyaj Ali, strolled into the DLF Emporio Mall located in Vasant Kunj( New Delhi), only to be left shocked and shaken by the price tag of a leather jacket in some random fashion store.
It was the evening of 29th December 2013. We went there to visit Ambience Mall but were forced to park car at the adjacent DLF Emporio Mall due to Sunday evening rush. Since that day, after being blown by the price tag of that leather jacket, I played the "Guess how much price" game with almost everyone I met but no one came even close to the actual price. Without any delay I should tell you straight, that jacket was tagged at two lakh sixty five thousand rupees only, and it was the first and last item I checked price tag of in that mall.
We left DLF Emporio and went to Ambience Mall, where we sat down at Gloria Jean's Coffee to ease our pain with chocolate shakes. How much inflation has degraded the value of rupee, I sighed. But still, 3 lakh rupees still have significant value for people like us. Reyaj claimed this amount is sufficient for reception of two marriages in his village. I calculated that it can buy enough blankets for thousands of poor homeless street dwellers. We dropped the conversation about the jacket which needed bank loan( for people like us).
I reached home but that jacket was still on my mind. I realised my budget for jacket this year was about 10 thousand which I had been thinking to buy for past few years but never got time or perfect fit to buy. Even this much money was enough to buy about 30 blankets, I thought. This number was good enough for the humble act of covering the shivering bodies lying on road side.
I thought this is exactly what I should be doing this new year eve instead of watching tv at home or getting drunk/stoned at some friend's place or wasting thousands of rupees as entry fees of some pub which will ultimately go to the pocket of people who buy that jacket which disturbed me so much.
I called my friend Angad, someone whom I knew who will jump into it without a second thought. I just called him up right away and asked what is he doing this new year eve, but before he could tell me about his plans, I asked him if he will come along with me on 31st December night to roam around on dark streets to hunt down sleeping homeless people and cover them with blankets. He agreed instantly as expected. I asked him not to tell about this plan to too many as I didn't wanted to make it a hot debate. We decided that we will share this plan with only those whom we think might get along.
Nitesh Tanwar was the first person Angad told about the plan and he too joined us. Initially our combined fund was around 15 thousand rupees from three of us. On December 31st morning we started looking for some good quality and cheap blankets. We all were in office so there was not much scope other than searching on internet and in our friend circle. Finally Aangad managed to find contact of a dealer who supplies blankets for NGOs at the price of 300 per blanket.
In the meanwhile as Angad talked to more people and they got to know about our plan, more and more people got interested in contributing. By 3 pm the total fund touched 30,000 rupees. Finally I placed an order of 100 blankets and fixed the time and place to pick the stock. Later the fund reached 35 thousand.
I was mid-way at Cannaught place at around 5:30pm where I tagged along my father's car along with his driver as two cars were needed for 100 blankets. I reached Netaji Subhash Place by around 8. Traffic was worse than ever due to new year eve and I was navigating with the help of google maps.
Driving back home, when I was crossing an underpass just before an elevated highway, I saw a person lying down on the footpath. I stopped and immediately took out one blanket and ran towards him. He was shivering from cold. He was in a torn shirt and pant, no woollen. I wrapped the blanket around him. It felt like buying all those blankets has become worthwhile by just this one act. We reached home by 10.
It was decided that we'll meet at my place in Kaushambi so that half of the blankets could be transferred from my father's car to Angad's car. Angad and Tanwar reached my place at around 11 and soon we left on our mission. We started by searching in the nearby area. We found one old man covered in rags getting ready to sleep. We started by giving one to him. We found an old woman on the divider of road, we gave one to her.
After that we decided to go to AIIMS where we may find many needy people. We lost track of each other in traffic. I took the NH24 while Angad went through Laxmi Nagar area. I kept looking here and there by the road side but found not a single person worthy of our blankets. I kept on driving slowly towards AIIMS.
I was stopped by police at a check post near Nizammuddin Railway station. The policeman was furious to see a car overloaded by some unidentifiable stuff packet in plastic bags. He told me that I'll have to pay challan for using non-commercial vehicle for transporting goods. I got down and told him that this is for homeless street dwellers. He melted down like ice in summer sun. He let me go with his blessings.
I reached AIIMS and it was 1 am already. I waited for Angad and Tanwar at the front gate of AIIMS. In the meanwhile I looked around for people who sleep on street. There was a place where a lot of people were sleeping in open, but they had their set of blankets and bed sheets. While I was doing the survey of the area, a man appeared from no where and started peeking into my car. He was barefoot and had minimal cloth on his body. He looked healthy and fit though. He told me he had lost all his luggage and had come for treatment in AIIMS. I gave him one blanket. As soon as I gave him the blanket all of the sleeping people woke up and rushed towards me. Thankfully Angad and Tanwar arrived just in time. We looked upon their status and decided not to give them. Looking at the crowd police also reached there. Without saying anything we left that place.
Now we decided that we shall park our cars at some distance and do a survey of the area first, then count the needy people and then only take out the blankets and give it to them. We explored the area of Yusuf Sarai on foot. We failed to find anyone to whom we could give blankets. It was not as easy as we had thought. Almost all of the about 120 blankets were intact in our cars but we were still firm on our belief that only needy people should get.
We decided to go and checkout the flyover near south-ex area. We found two men sleeping there without blankets on the road below the flyover. We covered them with blankets and left to checkout the area around Nizamuddin Dargah. In our way we found few more such people and we covered them too.
We reached Nizamuddin Dargah and parked our cars by the road side. We found many people sleeping on footpath there. They were about 10 of them, most of them awake. As we gave blanket of one everyone else got in line by themselves. One boy took one blanket, put it somewhere and came again after removing his sweater so that he gets the second one. He got a good lecture from Tanwar on how he should work and earn and not cultivate this tendency to beg. Btw, he was not the only one who got lecture from Tanwar that night.
We asked them if there is someone else they know who is more needy than them, one person offered to take us to an old woman who lives at some distance. Me and Tanwar stayed at the cars while Angad went to see that woman. Suddenly we realised that we should not have left Angad alone with that beggar who was taking him into some dark place as he vanished from our sight. We almost ran to find him, but when we reached there, we saw Angad was giving blanket to a very old woman who lived in the woods, all alone.
After that we went to checkout the area inside the Dargah. It was about 2:30 am by now but the Dargah was crowded. We could not find anyone worthy of blankets inside dargah but returning we saw a very very old woman shivering and taking support of a wooden box to hide from the cold wind. When we reached our cars to take the blankets there were many more people waiting for us to give blankets, many of them were second timers. We gave blankets to few of them who looked needy and decided that we should get out of that place and take a U-turn to give blanket to that shivering woman we had just seen. We did the same.
We decided to go to the Nizamuddin Railway station in hope we find some more people there. On the way we saw two people sitting on footpath and two people sleeping. We stopped our cars at some distance and Tanwar went back to check if they need any blankets or not. He came back running and told us that a person has died of cold there and other people also don't have anything to cover themselves. We took out the blankets and rushed back to them. They were sitting besides the body, I could not say anything except offering them the blankets, they took it quietly.
Now we were in the area below the Barapulla flyover, the road which connects main road to the Nizamuddin Railway station. It was mostly dark. There we found few luxury cars with their head lights on and doors open and some drunk dudes screaming something( probably happy new year ) and there were few people sleeping in the darkness covered by just a thin cloth. We covered them with blankets. There were two people outside a hut. We were just thinking whether we should go that far or not and just then the police was there, again. At first the policeman shouted at us for what the hell we doing in the dark, but when we went closer to him and told our story, his tone changed. He warned us that these guys who sleep here keep knives and blades and are expert at snatching and looting, we should not be roaming here at this time. We took his advice as our work was already done there.
We kept roaming around for rest of the night and with god's grace by 5 am we were done with all the blankets. Tanwar didn't had his dinner last night so we went to Yusuf Sarai again to have parathas and tea.
Happy New Year was long forgotten in all the rush, so we hugged each other to say Happy New Year and went back our respective cozy homes.
Comments (8 so far )