Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A discussion about plight of homeless & suffering in Los Angeles, Mumbai/Bangalore and Puttaparthi

In response to a Facebook post giving a link to the article, How Los Angeles Is Becoming a ‘Third World’ City, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/06/opinion/welcome-to-hooverville-california.html, dated July 6th 2015, there were some comment exchanges of which I have given below selected ones (slightly edited):

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Very sad. I had read similar articles and seen a few videos about it some time back. Another point is that being homeless and poor in L.A. may be actually tougher than being homeless and poor in, say, Mumbai. Somehow the desperately poor can sleep somewhere and somehow exist in Mumbai (my city for most of the first four decades of my life) - the police cannot be very rough with them, especially if a group of people get together and somehow form a small set of hutments. Of course, hygiene wise Mumbai slums typically are really terrible. But then at least the human can somehow squeeze out a place to lie down. The police in L.A. would be forced to be tough with the homeless, and perhaps drive them out of the city. I have seen some terrible videos about such homeless guys even getting violent with the police who are driving them away. I mean, where will these homeless go? They are human beings, not animals! .... One thing I am so happy about Puttaparthi and surrounding villages is that even if hygiene and other aspects may not be great, homeless persons somehow survive. They find some place to lie down; beg their way for food; and exist. They are not driven out of the town & villages. ... Yes, if the number of such homeless people becomes too much, there may be a problem. But, so far, I am so happy to see that even the desperately poor are not driven away from Puttaparthi. It gives the town that vital HUMAN touch even if it means some hygiene and other issues.

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[In response to a commenter saying that, (many years ago,) he saw an (apparently) homeless guy lying in the dirt with a look of utter suffering in his eyes, right next to the road in Kadugodi near Bangalore, having a lot of traffic going by]
Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Sad! This did happen in Mumbai when I was living there. Essentially middle-class (and, of course, upper class) types would get some help. But it was the visibly poor who were lying on the road somewhere whom people, including me would hesitate to help, as one did not know how much involved in the matter one would get if one helped. I mean, taking a poor person who is possibly unconscious (and sometimes, to be brutally honest, just plain drunk) to even a municipal hospital has strings attached. You become the care-giver. I think this is where Mother Teresa's organization and similar organizations alone can really render help.

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[In response to a comment about what a sad world we have made for ourselves]
Ravi S. Iyer wrote (changed format for easier reading):
I should add that life in Puttaparthi is very different. Once I saw a person lying down on the road in the morning or the afternoon - I was ready to help (as I was free then). But I first checked with the shopkeepers and handcart guys - they told me that the guy was simply drunk!

I think even in villages around Puttaparthi helping even a poor person lying down somewhere on the road, and visibly ill, is common. I would certainly consider doing it myself or trying to organize that help. Perhaps the simplicity and lesser time pressure of village and small town life, allows one to be really HUMAN in these aspects.

In Mumbai I have helped a middle class stranger who needed to be hospitalized - those were days when cell phones were expensive and so neither I nor another stranger who was helping, had a cell phone. The sick person was pleading with us not to take him to the municipal/govt. hospital (as there is some concern about the quality of care rendered there) but the auto driver whose advise we also took, said that in such cases of strangers, municipal hospital is the right hospital as even police may get involved. I mean, after all we were not next-of-kin. So we did get him into a municipal hospital where he got some treatment. I don't recall exactly now but I think through landline phone he contacted his relatives, and we helper-guys could go home.

Even today if I go to Mumbai I will do the same for a middle class or upper class guy, but I will hesitate to go that far for the very poor. I may ask him/her whether I can get him/her some food/water/medicine ... but I will not go further and take him/her to the municipal hospital where they will see that it's a very poor person, and will get very upset if I just, so to say, offload the very poor sick person onto them, and then disappear. I mean, I know I will not be able to follow through for care of the very poor and sickly. These are my limitations and I try to live within my limitations.

BTW this is why people like me, and many, many Indians including atheist-communist leaders like the late Jyoti Basu of Bengal, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyoti_Basu, deeply revered Mother Teresa and her followers. They would do what I and most other Indians would not do. We are humbled into silence and adoration by the awesome service to the very poor & sickly that Mother Teresa and her followers provided (and still provide, I guess) in some parts of India.
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