I was on my way to my new apartment one day when I saw her. I wouldn't have noticed her in the swarming crowd if she didn't extend her hands out to me when I passed her. I didn't stop at first and she got busy on other people. But I went back and gave her a quarter. Her face lighted up. She looked at me with her wrinkled lips parted into a big smile revealing her yellow crooked teeth. It was only a quarter, I thought. When I saw her again, she was sitting on a newspaper spread out on the pavement eating rice from a paper bag. All her belongings which included a bottle of water, a paper plate, a bowl with some coins in it and dirty rags were gathered around her. She didn't look up when I passed. She was too busy gobbling up her meal. I stopped in front of her and handed her a bag of apples. She beamed. She gazed at me with an open mouth and then took the apples. The hopelessness in her eyes made a little space for joy. She said a prayer and then asked God to bless me. Her crinkled hands were thanking me. She watched me walk back all the way with a huge smile on her creased face. In the evening, she was munching on the apples. I guess she liked them. Weeks went by and I gave her a quarter every day. She was always so happy to see me, even at times I didn't have anything to give her. Others like her never stayed in the same place but she could always be found under the old sturdy tree by the parking lot. In rains, drenched from head to toe, she found shelter under a plastic sheet. I wondered what was her story? Where did she come from? Had her life always been like this? Or was it because some misfortune had befallen her and left her homeless? Did she have any family? Where were they? Or was she all alone in the world? A month before when I was leaving for work, she was still at her old spot but something was different. She was not in her usual stained loose old clothes anymore, rather she was wearing a neat dress that was not shredded from anywhere. Instead of the newspaper, there was a basket full of ripe and fresh apples spread out on a mat in front of her. She waved when she saw me. The concrete cracks on her face looked a bit loosened. She offered me some apples. When I tried to pay her, she refused. Apparently, she had saved up all my quarters and started her own business. She did not want my money anymore but told me that I can take as much apples as I wanted from her and whenever I wanted them.
Bihar a land where Gandhi started Champaran Satyagraha in support of indigo farmers, has history of producing roaring politician Jaiprakash Narayan who lead the mid 1970s opposition against prime minister Indira Gandhi, also called JP movement, is now bound with caste politics and where health ministers ask what's the death score in infant mortality. Our politicians, the bureaucrats and we as the society had only been pretence towards the cruelty our countrymen goes through. It is heart wrenching to see how our government's policies had been collapsing and have not reached out to those in need, these policies being made for. One sunny day I was heading towards the grocery store to get some food items although it's completely locked down in my state, some essential facilities are open for people. when standing in the line for social distancing, I saw a middle aged man wearing a mask stepping outside a ramshackle house in a weird way. I found it suspicious to believe someone would ever walk out of their house like this. Few minutes passed by, and I saw two women rushing out, that same house shouting and screaming. They were robbed while taking their midday sleep. The occurrence gave me flashbacks when my laptop and mobile phone got stolen from my room. That incident was more strange than shocking to me, that robbery made me think how courageous that man was to rob her house in the time when everybody is in their house because of lockdown, or he was more hungry to pilfer things because he needs it. It was raining the other day, so I went to the balcony to see outside. While glancing over my locality I saw a man sitting in a rickshaw shivering, I was first not sure whether or not to step out of my house but that feeble man's situation made me take steps towards him. I took a bowl full of rice and dal along with me. While going near him I realised that he is the same man who robbed that house midday, that frightened me but with doubt in my head and fear in my heart I anyhow reached him and offered him the bowl. He hesitated at first then accepted it, after he finished his bowl I tried to establish some talk and we talked about various things going around because of coronavirus and lockdown, I couldn't resist myself but asked him about that day of robbery. Firstly he equivocated but then confessed and started crying. He said his name is Radhe and he was just a regular rickshaw driver in around our area but because of lockdown he lost his job and his supply to food and shelter is not certain, he has no money and have no job so left with only option to rob, rob to feed both him and his childrens. We both had tears in our eyes after listening to his problems. Weeks passed by, but I was not able to take that incident out of my head every time I had my meal. I could not help but to think about him and so many more exactly like him, even worse. I could not have just relaxed inside my house and watched people like him suffer, after all their well-being is our responsibility. So I talked to my parents about those things happening and decided to help them in any way possible, either by providing them with food or giving them blankets and temporary shelter in our garage, we did it with complete passion. But I couldn't find Radhe, as he was already weak I feared if he died. Then one day I saw him sitting around the corner in his rickshaw smoking weed, I went to him to ask if he ate anything. He ate almost nothing since three days and has been starving from hunger, so I invited him to my place and gave him food and then we started talking about what he is going to do next and what his future plan about his childrens. He had no positive answer but worry in his eyes. So I proffered his meal along with his childers at my place until he gets his job back. I could sense the relief in his eyes, for him that was everything but for me it was just a help who needs it, so now he can focus on his family and arrange some source of income. We know this pandemic has made our economy crawl on knees but let's not forget these unnamed people around us keeping our city clean or roadside vendors or even daily wage labour, let's be more human toward them and let us restore their believe in humanity because as Mahatma Gandhi said "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others"
UNLEASHING A BlBLICAL PERSPECTIVE TO JUSTIFY WHY POVERTY CONTINUES TO DEVOUR AFRICA. Are we evolving if we are still unable to break the vicious cycle of poverty that is prevalent in our society and is afflicting many households because of the obsolete values we still attach to money? Money is a is a high-pitched, and hypothetical statement that has hit the most Christianised continent for time immemorial. itʼs an economically subversive tenet that has for countless years blindfolded the African race, it has disempowered, and incapacitated our cognitive ability to critically refocus on building systems that would spur an economic transformation of our society. Instead, our minds are programmed to think in a manner that maintains us at a status-quo in every aspect of our lives. When you trace the problems that have continued to overwhelm and marginalize our society, you will realize that they are deep rooted in biblical disorientation, and the belief that money is evil bound. This biblical teaching in its inexplicit design and ambiguous nature has been a source of confusion to many believers who cogitate that any attempt to pursue wealth would ensnare one into sin and affect their spiritual destiny. Because the docile congregants in various places of worship were made to think that having passion for wealth would not qualify them for eternal life. This is an inherent societal norm encased in traditional doctrines of our descendants(fore parents)who were subverted and conditioned by their perpetrators to assimilate all their teachings many years ago during the juvenile stages of the 19th century when they were enslaved and terrifically wailed under the tyranny of their sadistic masters and rulers. Since then, Africa has never enjoyed its own space because someoneʼs ideologies, and hidden agendas conquered our mindsets. We are still twisted together, and scaffolded into their powerful influence, and control systems; In this digitalized century, we ought to fashion our moral values, and reconfigure our minds to download ideas that will catalyze change,and improve our livelihood. We need to launch a moral-based campaign to renounce all the highlighted literature that has for several decades affected our moral values, and financial perspectives. We need to project newly refined thoughts capable of redirecting, and redefining the future of our continent. Africa needs money, Africa needs power, Africa needs technology, Africa needs autonomy to self-perpetuate; but money anchors the later, it architects this triad of. The resonating question that puzzles us now is how best could Africa build and boost its economic base ? (This question is open to each one of us, it doesnʼt only require the perceptual inputs of economic analysts or policy makers in the field of economy, but rather everyone is given a platform to share their insight). However, lʼm strongly convinced that many of us will agree with the idea that we can remedy the challenges and evolve our economy through gross investment. My emphasis is that if we donʼt have money we shanʼt get power, and without power we shall always be dehumanized, and our rights shall be infringed on in perpetuity by our oppressors; if we canʼt stand and control how we co-evolve with our society, this will always give ground to the influx, and penetration of the aliens who have mastered the chauvinistic skills of degrading humanity. It will create a platform to facilitate their oppressive, and ridiculous interventions in Africa. Ultimately, we shanʼt experience a blossom of our expectations to restore the status Africa deserves and of which it was naturally designed to assume. I stress that in the current *e-world*our enemies use a trifold of baits to oppress and impose their dominion over our spatial territory; they use money, power, and technology but money is on their top priority list to impose their control systems; Nothing is incorrigible, we can forthrightly correct what overshadowed our ancestors and denied them the opportunity to predict that such literature would climax by belittling, blackmailing, and oppressing our motherland. Letʼs use the resources we can currently harness, and invest in business; get out of your penniless comfort zone, get a small loan, and kickstart a business, seek expert knowledge on how to grow, create more network, boost your productivity, improve your livelihood, break the dependence systems that confine our society under oppression, and build the capacity of your community to self-perpetuate! When they ask you tell them; Robert Ssekolya was the name that African nature baptised me upon flashing out of my mother's womb. For more info; WhatsApp: +256705862902 (with business account).
July,2008 It was a very hot saturday.As per my ritual every school weekend,I was still lolling around in bed even at 09.30 in the morning.Nothing could have motivated me to change my current place,not even mommy dearest's threat of introducing Mr.flipflop to my beautiful face,nothing except the aforementioned 'hot' day. The sweat drenching my powerpuff 'bubbles'pyjamas successfully made me move from belly-flop position on bed to starfish position on the floor. Busily contemplating how could cinderella's shoes have fallen off if they fit perfectly,I failed to hear the knock on my front door. The sound so meek it failed to attract my attention until the third time and it made me suspicious! Afterall I'm home alone(both my parents had just left for work) and the calling bell was working better than me. Before my 13-year-old mind could conjure up situations where a clown came after me with butter knife,number of knockings had increased to five. Dubious yet curious I checked the peep-hole to find a little girl who couldn't be more than 5 years old fidgeting with a stainless steel vessel in her hand,Only then I remembered that it was mid-July. I live in Chennai(Tamilnadu,India) city famous for 2nd longest beach in the world-marina.My mother tongue is Tamil(one of the oldest language)and we have a separate calendar in addition to common one we use and the first tamil month starts from 14th of april. During the Tamil calendar fourth month 'aadi'(July 15-aug 15) we worship goddess parvathi in various ways. one such custom is to visit a temple and cook sweet jaggery rice camping style with clay pot,bricks and dry wood. Few ardent devotees visit as many homes as possible to get raw rice or money as donation. understanding that this slightly anorexic looking,dimpled cherub in a worn out but clean sky blue frock with two ponytails was one such collector floored my mind. As I opened the door I was awestruck by two things.First,her impeccable manners as she sweetly asked me to 'please' give her handful of rice and second,the widest toothpaste advertisement worthy smile she hit me with once she finished requesting. Despite taken aback by this tiny pixie with expressive eyes bravely facing the burning sun,I somehow managed to get a cup full of rice and 4 cent chocolate my classmate had given me the previous day. The little darling was thrilled to see the chocolate and thanked me profusely remarking how her 3-year-old little brother was crazy for them but their mother had very little money to buy it. Her father,an unemployed alcoholic heaped the burden of managing expenses on his wife who managed two jobs(as a waitress and house maid). In order to make their ends meet she had heartbrokenly sent her adorable babygirl to collect rice not for worship but for their own use in upcoming months! Having collected her bounty, madam cutie bade me goodbye exclaiming she was on a very tight schedule thus here I was,once again, sprawled on the floor of my bedroom reflecting on the surprising yet most welcomed meeting I just had with the cheerful little girl. Cheerful little girl,who A)looked anorexic due to lack of food B)wore a patched up frock because her mother struggled to make ends meet C)cherished cheap chocolates yet saved it for her brother and most of all faced all these difficulties with a huge smile and innocent eyes. That was when I had "good god I have been an idiot!" moment. Confused?Well,All the while this tiny pixie was stage-whispheringly confessing to me,she kept crossing her legs dancing like a snake which in retrospect could have been due to leg pain or her need to visit the restroom but being the stupid teenager I was, I failed to question her about it on the spot so I leapt from the floor and rushed outside. Twenty minutes of exploring-my-neighbourhood later I understood my search party had failed epicly making me conclude she must have finished with this street and moved on. That day at the age of 13, I learned many lessons through this angel (who disappeared just as suddenly as she appeared) I understood the importance of acknowledging my parents sacrifices, I learnt that the comforts I took for granted were luxury to others, I decided to thank god everyday for everything he blessed me with but most of all I learned to face everything with a smile on my face. To most this might be the simplest of encounter but for a naïve teenage girl like me this was one of a life changing moment. Even now at the age of 26, I still dream about that angel who taught me to face all challenges with child like open-mindedness and her mother who undeterred by poverty faced the days with dignity doing her best to raise her children with good behaviour and kind heart. My sweet Angel if you read this one day I thank you for breezing into my life that hot Saturday and changing it within shortest amount of time and fervently hope god has heaped you as well as your little brother with lots of chocolates and love.
For three months last winter I stayed at a cold weather shelter (the shelter is opened from end of October to the1st of April.). The people at the shelter had some severe health issue. There were a lot of people there with “severe mental health issues” (if you get SSI or Social Security people with mental health issues are dumped in low-income housing if you don't get a check you are among the homeless.). One pretty young woman who legal name is Ashley, but she went by another name Martha. One cold morning Ashley decided to go outside barefoot and with no coat on. Another woman named Linda used to live under a bridge when the shelter was closed. Another homeless person named Mike (we called him chemical mike), all he would talk about is all the investigations into chemical leaks in the area. Another homeless person was Dan. Dan was a veteran who drank a lot. Dan was a savant when it came to music. Dan could tell you the name of a song, its artist, the year the song came out, and where it when to on the charts, just from listening to a couple of notes of a song. Because Dan drank a lot he ended up in hospital a lot (suicide attempts). You had to leave the shelter by 7 am. Dan would go to grocery store and ask people if he could take the carts back to cart area (there was a 25 cent deposit on the carts, when you put the chain back in the cart that was already there the quarter came out. That was Dan's panhandling day). I tried to help Dan out by giving him a couple of dollars (Dan was one of the homeless who weren't motivated to help their situation, the “chronic homeless”. Another young woman cut herself and had to be taken to the hospital. Another person was arguing with staff and not making much sense, he was escorted out of the shelter. There was one homeless person who stated “I can't wait for the shelter to be opened next year”. Shelters are temporary housing, they are not meant to replace regular housing. There was one woman named Lisa who I spent some time hanging around with at the shelter. Lisa had been homeless for six years, she kept all her belongings in a grocery cart and the shelter let her keep the cart there. She told me a story how she got be homeless, her boss where she was working found out the she was sole provider for her and got her fired just because he thought it would be funny. Lisa stated that she wasn't in contact with her family. I liked Lisa a lot. One night she had breathing problems, and was taken to the hospital. Lisa had no other person to call a friend, she stayed to herself. I like Lisa a lot (and due to my proclivity for the downtrodden) I went up to see Lisa in the hospital. One day I brought her clothes, and her bags on another day. She was to have a follow up visit with a doctor once she left the hospital, however Lisa had no money, no insurance, and no way to get to the doctor's. After the shelter closed on April 1st Lisa went to live under a bridge. Several other homeless people followed her. The bridge was next to police station. Several fights broke out among the other homeless people and the police eventually ran off everyone who was living under the bridge. At this time I was working two jobs and living in my car. One job was working in another state (Winchester, VA) after work I would drive to the bridge where Lisa was staying and would give her money for food. I had it, she didn't and because of the way I feel about her I could just let her starve. One time when I went to the bridge where Lisa was staying I asked her if she wanted to go on a date to a fast food restaurant just up the street from where she was staying. Lisa stated that the last time she left her belongings unattended she ended up getting in trouble. I also ended up getting Lisa a bracelet. I always told Lisa that I would get both of us out of homelessness (I really wanted to, I wouldn't have minded spending the rest of my life with her.). It didn't quite work out that way. A former policeman who is now a social worker helped get Lisa into low income housing and I eventually ended up in a second floor apartment that I had to give up a couple of weeks later because of breathing problems. I qualified for food stamps when I was unemployed and I went to a food pantry. I ended up donating the food to the shelter. This was my way of give back to the people who have helped me. Any little thing I could do to help out. In the time since, I have developed some health problems (I had to give up a couple of jobs because of them.). There was one time I donated food to the shelter, that I also gave them a knitted scarf to give to Lisa, I hoped she enjoyed it (It was around Valentine's day and I considered it a Valentine's gift to Lisa.). Lisa if you are reading this just know that I love you.
It all began along a vibrant street, blossoms everywhere, foliage scattered all around, the brisk frost felt so quiescent, so serene to my soul. How amazing the sky with spiraling cotton clouds, the grass with dew sparkling like diamonds. This divine art of nature tranquilized the mind and body of pedestrians. I was flabbergasted by the nature that I forgot to notice something. Something horrendous indeed. Standing across the street, under the umbrella of sunrays, were four kids with four bags but with “two different stories”. Two kids pale as they seemed, stood in quietude like a phantom, lost in their ocean of thoughts with cries of hopelessness coercing them to drown in abyss. With ceaseless search for hope in their eyes but seemed that destiny stabbed them in the back each time they combated to attain their dream. This never gave them the intrepidity to standup afresh. Their legs quivered, dreams faded and despair engulfed them, compressing them under a state of bewilderment. They knew not whether their future existed, while holding a rugged, patched bag gathering garbage from the surface which enveloped them. While the second story comprised not of rueful souls, bleeding hearts, sorrowful smiles, gloomy eyes and unforgettable tragedies but it accompanied gladsome smiles, blissful lives, faithful hearts and buoyant eyes. The two kids in this tale possessed school bags and books, wore uniform and steadily directed their way towards their school with ambition to strive and chase their aims and dreams. I wish to see the spark of hope in their eyes, in the eyes of the hopeless and grieved ones. I wish to replace garbage bags with school bags, trash with books and brooms with pencils. I wish to see grinning souls and auspicious smiles, instead of lachrymose eyes under the shadows of terror and agony. I wish to glorify each melancholic soul with a resolute vision to thrive and carve their destiny. And I wish them to love life and cherish it like the staunch, enthusiastic children. This example doesn't only represent those four kids but makes us realize how millions of innocent and naive souls kill their dreams, bury their futurity and abolish their destiny due to the lack of opportunities and chances bestowed upon them. This is what I hope to achieve in my lifetime; to make this a “single story” of hope, struggle and passion for fulfilling their dreams. To win the spark of aspiration and contentment in their eyes, and make them flourish their fate and predetermination. I hope to make them construct a promising future, a prosperous life, a determined generation and an ambitious world! I dream to put together the dispersed puzzle fragments into one intact piece of warm fuzziness and beatitude. And dream to make it a “ONE SIMILAR STORY” for each and every juvenile on this planet by healing their sundered futures with the only key to close this door of inequality and poverty, ‘education'.