The Other side

I first saw Reghu at the Juvenile court, he was 16, unlike other teens; his eyes lacked its sparkling. He was pale, emaciated, and hopeless; wore a black pant twice his size, and a torn, but stitched shirt. He was produced to the court, for the accusation of theft. He didn't deny it; he held down his head and was silent. Why? What made him do that? — these questions rushed through my journalist brain. The search for answers made my way to the slum, where he lived. I found Sonam, his little sister;scared, all alone in the small house. Their father demised 7 years ago, and from there on, their mother went on for earning. She worked all day, from washing dishes, sweeping floor, to maid at other's houses. She was able to feed her children and, sent them school; with the little she had. But years of toil made her bedridden. So Reghu had to quit study. He found a small job at the nearby hotel and, made his sister study. He hoped that one day, she will save her family. He even worked extra hours to earn enough for his mother's medicine. The little family was contented with what they had. It was then the COVID-19 shook the world. To break the chain of transmission, the Government strictly implemented the lockdown. Reghu was forced to stay at home. The immediate loss of income crushed the family. They were out of ration, and didn't know what to do. They were starving, not for a day;but for weeks. All they could fill in their stomach was the foul smelling water in the slum. His mother, in her sickbed became too weak. She couldn't have her medicine for more than a month, and above all, she was starving. Her condition worsened day by day. Reghu knew that he needs to do something immediately, to keep her alive. Most of the huts in the slum had similar situation, so, he didn't know where to go for money. At last, his manager lent him some; grudgingly. He brought some food and medicine, and made his way back home...but he was too late, he saw his mother lying still in her bed and his sister mourning near her. He felt the world turning upside down, there was a blackout...he fell down, the medicine bottle broke and food fall on the floor. Her funeral services were held. His heart was loaded with pain, and he didn't know what to do. He held Sonam close; he couldn't help himself, he mourned, after all, he was a little boy. His mother's departure tore him badly. He lost all hope in his life. Days passed by, the lockdown was extended. Sonam was so hungry and so was he. There was no one left, whom; he could borrow some money from. He desperately wanted to feed his little sister, as she was the only family left. That's how, he ended up snatching a women's purse. But for his misfortune; he was caught. “Matt, try this...” my writing was interrupted by her voice. It was my sister with her homemade chocolate cake. I took a piece and had a bite, it was so tasty! “It's really good”- I gave her a thumbs-up and took another piece. I never knew my little sister could cook this well... Every day, she tries a new recipe. It was one of her way to make the quarantine time productive... What a cliché??? I heard her saying, while reading my blog material. “Way too expected, nothing new, no twist or no good plot....” No one gonna read this- she added. She found Reghu's story, way too dramatic. I wasn't astonished, because even after months of lockdown, we had food on our table. We have never been let to starve. For us, lockdown was just a time to be productive, to learn something new, to display our talents or to have a cool family time. We had our phone, internet, social media, and even Netflix. So, I couldn't blame her for finding it a cliché; but little did she knew that, it was inspired from a true incident... The court came to know that the boy was forced to steal for his younger sister, who had not eaten for days due to the Covid-19 lockdown; ordered his release, and also directed the local police to provide food and clothes for the accused and his sister. The court did not stop at that. It also directed authorities to help him to get all benefits under various Government schemes. I wrote and smiled, because I thought that the story had something, the society needs to understand. If we look around, there's are people like Reghu near us; who is struggling, starving, and not been able to access the healthcare or education, sometimes even basics like food and water. The current socioeconomic crisis triggered by the pandemic pushed families barely getting by, into poverty, and the poorest families to an extreme level of deprivation. For people living in countries already affected by conflict and violence, the impact of this crisis can be multi folds; so this problem need to be addressed and measures should be implemented to mitigate it. Both sides need to be balanced…!!

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