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A Tale of Cities

Dr Smriti Kumar Sinha
(Translated by Ramlal Sinha)

YES, it’s a tale of cities, not of one or two. Take Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati…as a case study ‒ it’s the same basic storyline. From Google earth, let’s zoom in on any of the cities, say Guwahati…

Guwahati City

It’s a sweltering noon. It’s the hustle and bustle of city life, with honking cars lined up. The road on the left leads one to Fancy Bazar. A billboard stands erect on the right. Rich in carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals ‒ reads the advertisement of a baby food. No substitute for breastfeeding, maxim of the WHO, written in a small font size, almost invisible. Oh no! What a stark contrast! A corpse, on the footpath! Could be of a mother. A baby is sucking its breasts, breathlessly. A bagging bowl is lying near, upside down. The crying baby is standing up. Limping… a baby boy. A mass of tangled and matted hair on its head.

Mercy coins keep falling from the pedestrians chatting over mobile phones and commuters busy surfing Internet ‒ broad band Wi-Fi. A digital divide! What else can they do? The kid starts walking over the coins, making thuds. The metallic sound stops. It looks at the other side ‒ a glimmer of hope. Crossing the main road!

The speeding cars break to a halt, with an awful screeching. Oh God! You’re really omnipresent. The kid has crossed the road. The swamping traffic has resumed free flow. The kid is craning his neck to have a better view of a green hoarding. A rhino is grazing in foliage of wild grasses in the Kaziranga National Park ‒ a tourism department’s ad with a tag on the top ‘Incredible India!’ Incredible indeed!

Limping a few steps further, the kid has stood in front of another hoarding. A few kids of his age are playing with colourful toys. ‘Kids’ Dreamland’, an English medium nursery school. A red missed ball is falling down. The kid on the footpath has forgot his stomachache, and extended his hand to catch it ‒ beyond his reach.
The crying baby is limping ahead, thumping against the roadside wall. Stopped! An eye-catching cartoon on the wall. A boy and a girl are playing see-saw sitting on a long and striped wood pencil! Written atop is ‘Let’s all go to school’… Sarba Shiksha Abhiyan… a government mission. The kid has rushed to catch the pencil ‒ a fake one!

It keeps limping till another poster ‒ gloomy orphan faces, matted hair. Tears dripping down their cheeks. Known faces? It has turned back and stood. On the backdrop, fellow faces and a tag ‒ UNICEF HELP. The kid is slowly extending his untutored hands.“Stop it. I’m here,” a street teen has rushed to the spot in a whirlwind. He has held the hand of the kid. A mobile phone in hand, his is a known face. A beggar-turned service provider through his mobile public call office for phoneless pedestrians. An innovation, thanks to Mahammad Yunus!

The kid bursts in hunger. The teen has taken him to a pilfered water pipe, offered him a palm-full. No, not a substitute. A solace? Relinquenched, the kid is clinging, a passionate hug in return ‒ an age-old bond of eMotion amidst eBusiness, eLearning and eGovernannce hoardings.
Let’s zoom in on, say…

Note: The story is especially dedicated to famous economist Prof. Mahammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate from Bangladesh, who changed the lives of street children and the poor of South-East Asia.

Courtesy: Seven Sisters Post (www.sevensisterspost.com)

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