The Unclothed Child

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The Unclothed Child

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread – Mahatma Gandhi

I reported at my Delhi Headquarters in mid Nov 2010 for participating in the Republic Day Guard of 26 Jan 2011. It was really cold in Delhi and moreover I belonging to the naval fraternity had the blessing to spend all my childhood in the coastal areas where temperatures do not dip down as low as that of Delhi even in the chillest winters. So Delhi was quite challenging for me.

I was staying at the officers’ mess in Noida. With days passing by the temperature kept falling. The morning drill used to start by 0430 hrs which meant we had to be up by 0400 hrs and get ready for the drill. I don’t even remember how many layers of jerseys and gloves I used to put before stepping out in the morning hours and still used to feel the need for more!!

RD Parade in Delhi - Indian Navy We used to practice on a main road which was cordoned off for vehicles during our practice (End Dec we shifted to Raj Path for practice which was thrilling!!). As such it used to be the early hours of morning so there was hardly any traffic. We used to march to and fro on the same road every morning. The winter was at its peak by mid December. It used to take many layers of woollens and the vigorous drill to make me feel normal in those chilly mornings.

One day while practicing I saw a shelter (kind of hut) made with some wooden planks and torn sarees on the footpath which was alongside the road on which we used to practice. It came to my notice because it wasn’t there a day before. There were few people sleeping inside.

The Unclothed ChildWell, the day broke and we were done with our morning practice. And then there was something that I saw and had a brain freeze! A small boy (maybe 3 yrs old) walks out from that shelter, completely naked and just sits on the footpath. There was no cloth, no sun to warm him up!! Was he for real?? Was it humanly possible to survive this winter without any clothes (I am not even talking about warm clothing; it must have been below 10 Deg Centigrade ).

He was putting me to shame!! He had blank eyes, no expressions on his face….just staring at the men who were marching back to the mess. I felt as if my legs were locked! I couldn’t move! All I could do was stare at him.

After a few minutes I walked to him and asked him his name. He didn’t reply me. Was he angry?? Who was he angry with?? He had many culprits. We people who were marching would have woken him up and could have been his culprit….this system which could not provide him the basic needs of life was his culprit….

God who had given him life and desire to live but not the ability to have a safe dignified life was also his culprit. He could be angry at any of us!!

I just removed my jersey and a pair of gloves and handed it over to him. He accepted it without saying anything. But he smiled. Thank God he did. Next day the shelter was gone and so were the people.

The impoverished always try to keep moving, as if relocating might help.

After staring at the poor in the eyes, my thoughts on how best to help people have dramatically changed. It is rightly said that the highest wisdom is found in the lowest people. The unclothed child taught me that we are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without. He was richer than me!