Personal Memoir on the rag pickers of India post COVID-19

For me, a flourishing economy is not something that happens in broad daylight but what happens at night. I like to be wide awake at night and one of my favorite hobby is listening to songs while roaming around the terrace (at night). I like to see how nature rejuvenates itself after a tiring day. I like to feel the cool breeze the blows after an oppressive daytime. 

But I’m not the only one who experiences this; there are others too, crores of them. When I see them from the terrace of my huge house, they do not see me back. They like to put their heads down or sometimes look away. I know you cannot guess who I’m talking about, why would you? They are the rag pickers, the street hawkers, the jamadars of India. 

Rag Pickers of India

They work when everyone is sleeping. One trolley, a man riding and a woman sitting on it with a huge pile of garbage. They’re skinny, they wear old and worn-out clothes. People do not talk about them, we cover our faces when we smell the stuff they carry. We make sure we do not touch them. We barely give money for their services, after all they really don’t matter. Do they? 

Today I penned my thoughts down because they are increasing, I guess it’s because of the pandemic. I am used to seeing 3-4 of them every night but recently their numbers have compounded. I see men, woman, children with sack bags. I’ve seen them carry rejected food of the food stalls near my home, carry carton and empty medicine boxes of medical stores, I’ve seen dogs chasing them. 

I don’t like the concept of huge numbers, trillion dollar economies and billionaires when there are people sleeping hungry at night, kids having sacks in their hands than books and a peaceful sleep.

A woman who sits idle on the trolley and thinks she cannot provide food, shelter, clean water and clothes to her little children. She too had dreams of living in a home, wear nice clothes, have a TV, sofa, dressing table, electricity. But reality hits her hard as she experiences a bump on the road. 

Some say they come from Assam and some say they ran away from Bangladesh to India, whatever it is, they too deserve some respect, enough fixed money and care from the government. The type of work they do is so important. They keep our surroundings clean. It’s so ironical that they are called ‘koodawaala’ when we are the ones who kooda everywhere. 

These experiences have always helped me to be grounded. It makes me feel so lucky that I was never forced to work for money or I slept hungry because of no money. 

I just hope there will be respect for one and all, I hope that nobody sleeps hungry and no child is forced to work for pennies. For me, that is a thriving economy. 

One day I hope to do something for the poor and less privileged.

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