Sai Maa Vishnu Shakti Trust and ASMITA is supplying food to 3 hungry communities today. In the first area, Ghasiyra Tola, we stand on the edge of a sea of water, floating trash intertwined with lotus flowers across the surface. We see the tops of the riverside shanties half submerged across the expanse of water. Some of the residents have been forced to move elsewhere, but we see the remaining residents congregating outside the few buildings on higher ground not yet touched by the water.
Next we walk a short distance down the Varuna river to another badly affected slum neighborhood in Ghasiyra Tola. Here the enclosed area where the community lives is at a lower level to the surrounding land. The water has filled every building, some halfway to the tin roofs held down by bricks and tin cans. Somehow people are still living in these dwellings, still making their daily life in all this water.
Once again the children crowd around asking many questions. When the food arrives the children form themselves into a line and each receives their food parcel. Each child is different: some shy, some uncertain, some directing others, some naughty or playing games but they all eagerly eat the food provided. We then serve the adults of this slum, but word had spread about the food being provided and both children and adults from the other nearby slum areas start to arrive also looking for hot food. We continue to serve until we run out of meals and have no more to offer. It feels like there is so much need and our little efforts are insignificant to meet them.
At this site, I had a lesson in the reality of everyday life for these people. As we were leaving a young girl of about 10 came to me and said ‘Thank you for the food. It was good. I was hungry. We don’t eat vegetables’. These people cannot afford vegetables. They are a luxury to them.
The final site is near Bhagavanpur. This community is extremely poor. The children’s clothes are even more ragged and dirty. Their hair matted and dust filled. At times there is a harshness to the energy and to their treatment of each other. A harshness borne of circumstances. They wait patiently for the food to arrive from the cooking center in Sigra. The children initially play together and then sit in lines waiting. I am introduced to a baby born in the recent floodwaters, the mother waiting for her food.
By the time the food arrives, there are many more people than there is food available, many people having come from other more distant communities to receive the food. The lines dissolve and everyone – children and adults – crowd in to receive their meal. We try to feed the children first, however the power and need of the group pushing to get their meal means this is not always possible. On a number of occasions the feeding has to stop and the group is broken up. As it becomes clear that the food is insufficient some people become vocal, fuelled by their hunger and lack of money. All the children and women are finally fed, but most of the men go without after waiting hours for food. This outcome is something we aim to eliminate when we have the Sai Maa Moksha Dham ashram completed.