“The poor will always be with you,” said Jesus. About 2000 years ago. Was he advocating a caste system? I don’t think so, given his philosophy as far as that is clear enough from the unearthed documents about him.
I think what Jesus meant was that the human systems will always ensure that there will be a poor class to do the kind of jobs that many of us won’t like to do. There will always be certain sections that will be nurtured by the ruling classes for their own benefits. For example, the society of Kerala nurtures mafia groups called “quotation gangs” which are meant to threaten or even kill the enemies of those who wield the power, economic power. Economy determines the caste in Kerala. How many of the quotation gang members are Christians who went to churches on Good Friday to bury Jesus and will go to the same churches tomorrow to resurrect him – well, I haven’t done a study on it yet. Hope to do it some time.
What made me write this blog is not the quotation gangs of Kerala, however. It’s a poor man, a poor rickshaw cyclist of Delhi. I wanted to dispose of some old newspapers and a discarded washing machine from my home. I stopped my scooter near the kabadiwallah (buyer of waste) nearest to my residence, as I was returning home after a deputed duty outside my school which is a fortressed country like the United States of America. Kabadi buyers cannot enter my campus easily. Even if they manage to enter (with VISA given by concerned authorities), they have to take written notes from each seller how much of what items they have sold before they can gain exit from the gate. I live in a fortress, thank the myriad gods.
“How much will you charge for bringing my waste here?” I asked the rickshaw cyclist.
“Rs100,” he said.
I agreed instantly. Another rickshaw cyclist had charged the same amount for bringing a cooler home last year from half a kilometre more, and the cooler weighed much less than the waste I would be loading.
The rickshaw-wallah carried all my old newspapers (which weighed exactly 110 kg at the kabadiwallah’s) and my old washing machine from the first floor where my residence is and put it on his rickshaw without any groaning or grumbling.
He also unloaded it all at the kabadiwallah’s. As he was unloading it, his mobile phone started ringing. He ignored it. The kabadiwallah said, “Answer your phone, yaar.”
It was a call from someone else like me. To take waste to the same kabadiwallah. The rickshaw-wallah asked for the address. I took out Rs110 (10% service charge added from my side, though the Govt of India has made service charge 12% or so in the latest budget) from my wallet and gave it to him. That 10% was my way of saying thanks to him. But he did not say ‘welcome.’ He did not even bother to look at me again. He mounted his rickshaw and pedalled off.
“The poor will always be with you,” I said to myself like a complacent religious person.
A friend of mine who lives in Ireland told me a few months back that his car had become too old to carry on. He had to pay 1000 Euros to get rid of the car, which would be taken to the dumping lot. Getting rid of waste is a problem in rich countries. Even Ireland, which is predominantly Catholic, does not have enough poor people to BUY your waste. Thank the myriad gods of India, we have so many poor people!
Gods do a lot of recycling, I think. That’s why they multiply in India. A few metres ahead of my kabadiwallah there was a place where people used to dump their unsalable waste. Today, while searching for the kabadiwallah, I noticed that the erstwhile dumping ground today has been converted into a shrine for Valmikiji. A plaster of Paris image of Valmiki is erected in that place with an enclosure built around it. A bedstead is placed inside the enclosure. Who is converting the wasteland into a shrine as well as home? Who will later convert it into a commercial centre?
What is the distance between Valmikiji (or any apparently religious outfit) and a commercial centre?
How many roles do religions play?
The ragpicking children who used to haunt the present Valmiki shrine which was once upon a time a dumping ground have vanished. The poor will always find new haunting grounds. May be in new forms. As “quotation gangs”? As mafia groups? As militants? As terrorists?
Or as people who will take away your waste for a princely sum and create mountains of waste somewhere far away from US?
India is still great – we know how to Reuse, Recycle… and what’s the third R of the Indian environmentalists for?