For Delhi's homeless, New Year's eve just another chilly night
New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) As the city was soaked in revelry on New Year's eve, it was just an ordinary night for Shambhu Ram, a pavement dweller, who braced himself for another chilly night, wishing that mercury did not fall any further.
Armed with an old trench-coat and a threadbare gunnysack, 43-year-old Ram retires on a pavement in south Delhi.
For the many homeless like him in the capital, the New Year's eve night is just a regular winter night when survival from the cold wave is the prime objective.
Ram, an illiterate, didn't even know that new year meant celebrations. 'I work at a construction site, that's where I'll go on New Year's day. There's no holiday for the poor,' a visibly tired Shambhu told IANS.
Just like the New Year bonfires, Shambhu lights one too. But this one is to keep him warm during the cold.
For 14-year-old Shabnam and her sister Bulbul, 13, New Year's celebrations were a matter of curiosity. The orphaned sisters languish in a large concrete sewage pipe section lying off the road near Vasant Vihar.
Asked about the celebrations, the elder ragpicker retorted 'What do they celebrate tomorrow,' while handing out a bread slice to Bulbul.
However, 15-year-old Bishnu was happy that the capital was celebrating. And why not, the probability of him scrounging on some chicken curry from the scraps he gets from local restaurants becomes gets higher.
'There will be a lot of parties. And I may even get some chicken,' Bishnu says with a smile while keeping an eye on a nearby eatery.
He has no place to sleep, but stays around the Old Delhi Railway Station area as it is always full of people, assuring a constant stream of alms.
However, for 37-year-old Kallu, a rickshaw puller in Old Delhi, New Year's has a special meaning -- his twins were born the same day.
He doesn't have a place to stay and sends all his money back home in Uttar Pradesh. 'Whatever I save, I send back home. God has allowed both my children to go to school. One day, my children will pull me out of poverty,' he says.
However, with all the festive cheer, the New Year's eve is largely bleak for the homeless in the capital who are neglected by the authorities and eyed with suspicion by the public.
According to UNDP(United Nations Development Program) report, there are some 56,000 homeless living in the streets of Delhi.
The fact that these people are sometimes unable to even get drinking water, just seems to re-emphasise that the festive cheer doesn't percolate to the lowest rungs of society.
(Nikhil Walia can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)