By: Keyur Seta
Mumbai’s Versova locality is a residence for the rich and the super-rich of the city. As the price of a single apartment is easily over Rs 2 crore, it is impossible for the middle-class to reside in this suburban vicinity. This is solely the reason for the area to be home for a large number of film and television artists. Hence, owning a big apartment in this part of the city is proof enough of a family or a person’s healthy financial condition.
The same is the case with Dubey’s, who lived on the 10th floor of a typical posh Versova tower, overlooking a famous multiplex. With Mr Dubey striking gold in his garment business since more than a decade, his house is blessed with all the luxuries Mrs Dubey could ask for. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the family has maids and servants for every household chore. This ensures that Mrs Dubey can spend her day mostly watching television and socializing while their only child, Rajiv, juggles between school and coaching classes.
On one morning at around 11 am, Devi, their maid, returned with a stock of vegetables for the family. Like her normal routine, she stored them in the fridge. It was like an age old exercise except for the fact that the plastic bag carrying potatoes was torn, which the maid didn’t notice before storing. So the main bag, in which Devi carried all vegetables, had few potatoes left.
Around three hours later, Mrs Dubey ventured into the kitchen for her post-lunch fruit session when she noticed few potatoes lying in the bag. Cursing the maid, she decided to put them with the main stock.
Not so far away from Versova falls the locality called Oshivara. There isn’t much difference between Versova and Oshivara but for the presence of some shanties in the latter. In one such namesake of a home stayed Shanta with her seven-year-old son Ramesh. Her husband and Ramesh’s father passed away few years back after falling prey to alcoholism. Considering their situation and the place they call home, it is needless to say that they literally lived from hand-to-mouth. Plus, Shanta’s self-respect doesn’t allow her to ask or beg for food from anyone.
Shanta, off late, has been in a dilemma as to whether she should continue sending Ramesh to the government school as her income as a sweeper and through some odd jobs is clearly not sufficient to support the two in today’s price-rise era. She is toying with the idea of getting Ramesh employed as a worker in a nearby plywood store. Her idea has created a bad blood between the mother and son as the latter wishes to study.
The tussle between the two reached a new level today. There were literally no vegetables left and there was still time before she got her next payment. On top of that, the vegetable vendor had plainly refused credit any more. This was enough for Shanta to force Ramesh in giving up studies so that he can earn. Although deep inside she didn’t like this at all, the thought of starving was too scary for her to ignore.
After a lot of conflict, Shanta announced, “Okay. If we get some food by today evening through some miracle, I will let you continue your school. If God really wants you to study, he will arrange something for our stomach by evening. If not, you should join that store from tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, while feasting her eyes on the sunset at Versova beach from Dubey’s apartment and at the same time speaking with someone over the phone, the chief maid was waiting for the woman who brings groceries for the family from the market. When the woman arrived, the chief maid signaled her to take the main bag and the money kept in the kitchen, which was the normal practice since months.
When Shanta picked up the main bag, she felt some heaviness. When she peered in she realized there were a few potatoes. She was highly surprised. But soon a wide smile emerged on her face. She recalled how Mrs Dubey had long back handed over few extra vegetables to her. She was sure she had done the same again. Now, she didn’t need to drop Ramesh from school.
“God wants Ramesh to continue studying,” she happily thought while leaving the house. How would she know that a phone ring had stopped Mrs Dubey for storing those potatoes after which she forgot about it? Few potatoes were no big deal for Mrs Dubey. But for Shanta, they were not only a big deal but a new lease of life.
When an unintentional distribution of food can bring more than a ray of hope, just imagine the positive effect of a small amount of intentional donation by those with surplus wealth. Considering India has 100 billionaires (out of the 2325 worldwide) and many rich and super-rich, it is surely not a big deal for them.