Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Free Stuff

Yesterday my sister sent me a message. A 16year old girl committed suicide. She could not afford a bus pass (for school, I should assume), her farmer father had a debt of Rs.12 lakh.
There is so much behind those flat sentences. The despair, the denying of self, the hopelessness. I recognise that the bus pass is  not why that child killed herself, but it was the trigger. And how much  must it have cost? Not more than a thousand rupees, certainly. How easy it is for some to satisfy a need of that magnitude. I was uncomfortably aware of this as I settled down in my fancy 3AC berth. The journey I was on was costing me about 6000 Rupees; without sacrificing much comfort, I could have done it for a  sixth of the price.
And I was to be made even more uncomfortable during the night.
Around 10 pm, some people entered the compartment, perched on a berth where a man was already sleeping and began talking loudly. They were paid meeting attendees, employed by political parties to turn up at meetings and demonstrations. They spoke of  criss-crossing the region, of sleeping in trains.
And soon I realised that they did not purchase tickets.
Now I understand travelling ticketless when desparate. I understand needing to get home, and not having the means  to do so.
I do not understand these men. They were 'too good' to travel in the general compartment. But they could enter an AC compartment and occupy someone elses berth. They were too poor to buy  tickets. But  they were comfortable abusing the TC and laughing at him. They would not drink the water from the station, but they figured out where water bottles are stored on the train and stole some. Not that they would call it stealing of course. They were entitled to do all this, they were convinced.
And near my destination, a child was dead.