It was more than painful seeing the recent photographs of the near destroyed Raj Bagh situated home of Agha Ashraf Ali - father of the legendary Kashmiri poet, Agha Shahid Ali.
On earlier occasions when I'd met Agha Ashraf Ali, I had seen it from close quarters - I'd sat in the covered verandah cum lounge, in the drawing room, in the garden …I still recall Agha Ashraf Ali detailing the fruit trees that grew in the compound and on one occasion he had even plucked several apples and later cut them into tiny bits … And as we had neared the gates of his home, not too far from the banks of the Jhelum, he'd gazed in that direction and spoke of his late wife, "I loved her intensely …she was from Uttar Pradesh and I'm a Kashmiri but we were happy and she adjusted well here in Kashmir. I feel she is still here with me, in this home … see this gate, it carries her name."
I'm told that the 90 year old Agha Ashraf Ali was rescued as the flood waters hit the walls of his home but he couldn't retrieve and save his books and nor his son Shahid's literary works. Shahid had died several years back but to this day his literary genius is captured in his works - A Walk Through the Yellow Pages, The Country Without a Post Office, Rooms are Never Finished …
Shahid had traveled to the United States, to teach and to write. He'd died there …he died young, though alive through his intense verse, his writings, his very genius … The University of Utah Press gives the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize annually in his memory.
Kailash Satyarthi, do reach out to the street children...
Last week it was one of those hectic days and it was only towards late evening that I finally managed to reach Daryaganj with the long list of the Homoeopathic medicines I had to purchase. Placing them in the handbag, hopped into an auto rickshaw, on way to towards the JorBagh Metro station. With the traffic chaos peaking it was a slow ride. No, wouldn't dare describe it to be leisurely as there was noise and commotion.
The auto halted all too abruptly. 'VIP movement !' the driver hissed, though there seemed little trace of any movement. Non - movement, with vehicles stranded, urchins zig - zagging their way through those snarls. Within the next few seconds a rather bizarre sight. A young child - probably all of 3 or maybe 4 years - licking the feet of one of the men stuffed in the auto stranded close to the one on which I sat. The child was not just licking but also placing his head right there - on the man's feet. Stammering, coming out with half sentences, "Ek rupaiyya … rupaiyya de do."
That man did take out a couple of biscuits from a packet, but before that asked this child those mundane queries along the strain -where he lived and with whom. More so as the child did not glance at those biscuits. Pushing them away, this child continued pleading for a couple of rupees. Seeing and sensing the man unrelenting, this child bit his ankle with all possible might. The man shrieked but this child kept his teeth planted on man's ankle.
The man more than shrieked and with that several other street children gathered. All of pleading that he spares the child and not hand him over to the cops.
"Nahin, nahin sahib …yeh mar jaega...bahut beemar hai." And with that they detailed the child's parents are dead and he at the mercy of a bunch of relatives, and if does not hand them a minimum of ten rupees every single day he is not just beaten but also hung upside down !
By now I was more than curious and asked them his age. Only to hear them mumble " today is Dassehra and he was born three Dassehras back."
His name ?
"These people call him Ravan!"
Hearing his name, the little boy looked about self consciously and stammered all too innocently, "Haan … Ravan hoon !"
I kept looking at his innocent face, near wrecked by marks of injury and that haunted look in his eyes.
I wanted to cry aloud and exclaim - Aren't are all Ravans, for allowing our children to be tormented so very systematically, not rescuing these street children, victims of barbarism!
I wanted to reach out to this child, but just then saw several lathi equipped men nearing this side of the road, as though keeping an eye on these children under their control, in the very grip of their muscle power. Seeing those men, these boys seem vanish into the traffic chaos.
Now with Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I wish and hope and pray he expands his domain - save our street children from the clutches of mafia groups.
Last autumn I had detailed what I'd seen at the Chandni Chowk Metro Station - rows of ageing beggars holding semi - clad and semi - drugged children. Yes, presumably semi - drugged or so terribly malnourished that none of them could move around.
We have got to rescue these hapless street children.