India Uncut

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Despatches 11: The best intentions...

A short while after Srinivasu tells us about how aid doesn't reach the most needy people, we are walking through Pattinacheri when a young woman named Ilakaiya stops us and starts telling us her story. "She has lost her mother and her home," Srinivasu translates for me. "She is an example of what I mean, too weak to go and get supplies, and no one comes to her." He takes an old dress from his car and gives it to her. She refuses, and he has to force her to take it.

There is one thing that many people, seeing these people in their sad state, do not realise: these people are not beggers. They have lost their livelihood, which is why they have nothing on them, but they are, nevertheless, proud people. They do not like handouts.

Ilakaiya continues her sad tale, as other village women gather around her, nodding their heads in sympathy. Then, Srinivasu does something profoundly stupid. He goes to his car, takes a packet from it, and rushes back to Ilakaiya. He puts 4000 rupees in her hand.

Instantly a commotion starts. All the women, and some men who had been standing in the distance, rush up to Srinivasu and start screaming at him. He moves away, alarmed, and some of them start shouting at Ilakaiya, who starts yelling back. One old woman strikes Ilakaiya in the arm. We move away from there, with the women all screaming at Ilakaiya, their relations, perhaps irrevocably, spoiled. All because an emotional relief worker, using his heart but not his brain, got a bit too carried away.
amit varma, 10:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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