THE SMIRK ON THEIR FACE Lockdown is not same for everyone.
It has been four days since we have had one meal a day. My family of four, my fever struck wife and my coughing daughters have no one but me to rely on. I don't know whether my family has the deadly disease everyone is talking about. I don't know if I will be able to buy medicines for them, or even food. I don't have any work. I would do anything to feed my family, figuratively anything. I have had an empty pocket for the past week. My wife may have a bit that she got yesterday from the back aching chores she does in our neighbor's house. Our landlord threatened to kick us out if we go out to work. What are we supposed to do? Isn't it better to die working than die hungry? With this thought, I reached the nearby shop.
I ask the shopkeeper, "Dai, how much for a kilogram of lentils?" The shopkeeper replied, "Rs. 130 bhaiya. How much do you want?" The price felt like a needle piercing my nails. I said, " Dai, isn't that a bit expensive. Can't you make t a bit cheaper for me?" He replied, "What to do bhaiya, the crisis has made it difficult to survive in this country. Okay take it for Rs. 120. How much do you want?" He had a smirk on his face while saying that. A smirk of superiority. The hell was it difficult for him to survive. He had a 6-stored house and was earning in millions. I had one room with no food and the crisis seems to be making his survival hard. What about me? Isn't it hard for my family to survive at times like this? I did not want to buy but I had to feed my kids some nutritious food. "Weigh half kilogram of lentils and two kilogram rice please", I said. I gave him Rs. 500 note that my wife had given me. It was probably the last one she had. Five years it had been since we moved to the capital to fulfill our dreams. I wanted to open my own garage, wanted my girls to get good education and earn their living. But here we are. Hungry, sick, helpless and literally fighting for our survival. I grabbed the change and headed back home.
There was a long queue that grabbed my attention. There was a board with big English letters that I did not understand. Maybe my elder daughter could read it. I went closer and figured that it was some people distributing some essentials to the needy at the time of this crisis. I was happy to see people care about the needy and stood on the queue myself. I stood on the line for about half an hour and finally reached the starting of the line. One person gave me a small package filled with rice, noodles, salt and some oil. I was overwhelmed because this would feed my family for a few days. I bowed with gratitude and was about to leave when one guy held my hand. He pointed towards a camera and asked me to smile. He said, "We helped you. Aren't you going to smile for a picture?" I was speechless. I never asked for their help. They were helping as an act of humanity. I had not yet noticed that humanity was traded for photos these days. I wanted to throw that package away. But then the picture of my daughters appeared in my head. I bent towards the camera and with a heavy heart, smiled. I do not know how many but there many people behind me. I turned back to thank them for their help. But I could see that same smirk of superiority on their face, just like the one on the face of the shopkeeper.
I was heading back home when I suddenly remembered my hometown in Siraha. It was nothing like the city. People helped each other with an open heart and we never struggled to have something on our plate to eat. I wanted to go back home, not for me but for my daughters and wife. I could not do much for them but I could feed them properly without having to struggle so much. I felt how hard it was for my wife and daughters even though they did not complain. I reached home and gave the packages to my wife and asked her to cook and started packing our clothes inside the torn bag that we had. She asked, "What are you doing? Why are you packing our clothes?" I replied, "We are going home. I cannot survive in this hell hole anymore. I cannot live among the people who think they are superior than us." My eyes were watery and my daughters were watching when I was lashing out my emotions. My wife did not say anything and started cooking.
We started walking the next morning. There were people like us heading back home with backpacks and little kids on their shoulders. Reporters were questioning people all around. One reporter came in front of us. I bluntly said, "Dai, we are in a hurry. We have a long way to go. Can you please let us pass?" I looked at my daughters who were already tired and lifted the younger one on my shoulder. Even after my denial the reporter replied, "We are on your side. We are here to help. We will broadcast what you say on T.V. People will hear your voice. You will be recognized. Don't you want that? "I noticed the same smirk on his face. I did not know that our sorrow was how they earned their living. I replied, " Dai, if you really want to help, carry one of my daughter to Siraha or arrange a vehicle for us to go back home. My face and my emotions may get you many viewers, but it won't help me in any way."
Yes I know I am poor, discriminated and helpless. But for a matter of fact I want to survive as much as you do. I want my daughters to study and be good human beings. I want my family to live a prosperous life. Yes I too have ambitions and dreams. I too want approval and support. I don't blame you for my condition. I should, you demeaning society, but I won't. You know why? Because I believe that some day it will get better for us. Someday you will respect us no matter our ethnicity and color. I just want that day to come soon. Until then wipe that smirk of your face. The smirk of superiority.
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