Published: February 2, 2010 - 15:54 Updated: February 2, 2010 - 15:55

The Hitchcockian fog in Delhi carried the moist midnight north wind from the mountains and the cinematic night unfolded without a sense of mystery. You know how people were dying on the streets of Delhi, 2,00,000 of them, many of them women with no anchor or radar or morning star, many of them on the open-to-sky pavements because their night shelters have been demolished because our democratic benevolent government wants to beautify Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. Oh, what a beautiful city! What an amazingly repetitive stereotype! A balloon seller, who was so happy because he sold so many balloons in the new year, who danced and sang moments before he slept because he made some extra money, finally slept gratefully under the big blue bedspread, dead tired, and did not ever wake up. What a peaceful way to die in a cold, cold-blooded democracy. 

A young mother lost her child once, and then, later, as if fated by the commonwealth of kindness, another child, out in the open. Last night, as I write this, a mother was hit on the pavement as she slept with her little kids, one two-month-old, by a classically new prototype of globalisation's post-modernity: a drunk call center alienated creature, his mind full of call centre garbage, driving mindlessly crazy as if he was on a delivery mission of a fast food pizza to some 24x7 midnight food addict suffering with bulimia. She almost died but survived, but the catch is that she was thrown out of the same shelter moments before, where other homeless had taken shelter. They, the homeless, threw her out. Why? And how can the poor and exiled themselves throw out of a night shelter a lone woman with two kids at midnight?  

Poverty can turn totally devastated and helpless people heartless and selfish, as an aberration of circumstances; human beings can always become so small and inhuman when there is absolutely no hope or ray of sunshine in their lives.  

Fyodor Dostoevsky's stories are full of such poor people, both who uplift idealism through their stoic dignity, and those who can crawl for a button below the table of a rich man, utterly humiliated and degraded. Basically, you can be reduced into abject inhumanity and alienation because there is no humanity in your life left to cherish.

 But what was the humanity that balloon seller was chasing, in dance and song on the pavement, in which bubble of a balloon when it all burst inside his heart? Did he die of a cardiac arrest, or what is it malnourishment? Or was it that the Hitchcockian fog simply entered his intestines and lifted him so high up into that etherised realm of poverty's utopia that there was no fear of vertigo anymore? 

There is no logical explanation really for this human behaviour when you are pushed to the brink, sleeping in the open in this murderous cold, when the bone marrow becomes saline, brittle, lifeless, and the freezing night turns soul and body and mind into a caricature, at once and stunningly fragile, totally meaningless and without meaning.  

In that sense, stark and infinite poverty with not an inch of hope in the cold morning is like having too much money: if you are loaded with millions and billions, the cash becomes valueless. This is alienated capital, bloodsucking one; you don't deserve its ritual or repetitiveness. It can only give you that much of warmth which the human body can accept, and you can't consume more than what you have already achieved or stuffed, inside your thoughtless stomach and inside your bloated self, like a balloon which must one day burst inside, like an unwritten cheque which bounced. Like nausea which must arrive after hedonism, because even hedonism can't save the soul. 

And yet, they shouldn't have thrown her out. They should have given her a bit of their warmth and made themselves humane. She was after all one of them. Unlike, most of us. 


This story is from print issue of HardNews