Participants of Under the Stars programme at Ranchi station on Tuesday night
What does a home mean to us? A place of comfort, safety, happiness and love. But what about those who have no home?
Around 50 urbanites of Ranchi had that first-hand experience on Tuesday night when they had to forgo their cocooned existence and live like the homeless on the city’s streets, courtesy “Under the Stars” programme.
Conceptualised by Harsh Mandar, Supreme Court commissioner to Right to Food case and an author, Under the Stars was a sleep-out event aimed to raise awareness about the destitute and children living on roads. Participants, split into groups, slept rough through the night at railway station, state bus stand, GEL Shopping Complex and Main Road, thereby ushering in the Joy of Giving Week.
Mandar, who wanted privileged Indians to understand the problems of the poorest of the poor, had chosen the eve of Gandhi Jayanti as the night for volunteers to spend with the homeless.
“We will express our respect to the Father of the Nation on his birth anniversary, October 2, by spending the previous night with street dwellers,” Mandar’s email, dated August 19, to Right to Food crusaders across the country had said.“When the idea was shared in August through e-mails and SMSes, we received hundreds of queries and appreciation,” said Gurjeet Singh, a Right to Food activist, who took the initiative in Ranchi to make the programme a success.
On September 30, a meeting was arranged in the capital to chalk out the plans, which was attended by over 100 people. But heavy downpour in the capital played a bit of a dampener on Tuesday as only around 50 persons could make it.
“We received apologies from people for failing to join the programme as it was raining heavily,” Singh said.
Thus, the first lesson was learnt. “Even before we could start with our programme, we realised it is easy to commit, but very hard to execute,” Singh added.
The volunteers came with food packets.
“In this tricky world, it is not easy to win trust. That is what I learnt. The moment I told a pavement-dweller that I wish to be with her throughout the night and share dinner with her, she started questioning me. Before accepting the food, she asked me at least seven to eight times whether I would not seek any favour from her later on,” said Shalini, a resident of Harmu.
Manmohan Pathak, another participant, observed: “When it rains, we close the windows and go to sleep in our cosy beds. But at the railway platform, people huddle under plastic sheets.”