Not Just Another Name

Marium stirs in her sleep drowsily as sweat runs down her forehead and drips past her neck onto the hard ground. Its 41C and she forces her eyes open to check on the newborn baby nestling his head against her waist. Marium’s eyes brim with tears as she gently brushes the dirt of his cheek and traces her finger along the ribs protruding through his flesh. The plastic sheets above their heads only trap the heat within the thin tin walls under which three other women are crammed together in sleep. Marium gathers the energy to sit up and look outside; she can see the clouds forming and threatening to rain havoc upon the clustered community by once again breaking down their temporary huts and whatever is left of their shattered spirits.

Yawning, she drags herself to the common washing area to get a drink of water where she encounters two other women washing their clothes. She tries to fill her stomach with the stained water, knowing her next meal will only come past midday and she needs the strength as giving birth to the baby in these conditions has made her health extremely fragile.

She notices her husband, Mujibar, in the corner helping a Jamshed recover the sheds that were broken from the storm a few days ago. She suddenly feels a pang of gratitude for the fact that no matter the situation, she at least has her family. Many afternoons she spends her time holding her new friend, Geeta, while she hysterically breaks down in worry of what may happen to her children who are alone in the village with no money and no support.

“This disease has crushed us. I have no work, no food, no money to pay rent. My children are in the village and I have to send them money. What will I do?” – Tanuja

“Our children are dying of hunger at home and we here, we have nothing. We want to go back. Our children will die there, and we will die here.” – Geeta

“It’s a big problem for me; there is no food, no money and I have just given birth to a baby. I am very worried about him. Whatever is given to us by charities, that’s all I’m able to eat the whole day” – Marium.

“We are angry with the government, they are starving us! Neither are they killing us nor are they allowing us to live. We are stuck in the middle. I cannot even go back to my children.” – Lalla Bai

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an extreme incline in the number of people living below the poverty line and hence being subjected to living in inhumane conditions.‘Tanuja, Geeta, Marium, Lalla Bai, Jamshed’ may all just be irrelevant names to you; however having worked on the field, I’ve realized that these are real people that survive every day wondering where they’ll get their next meal from and whether tomorrow is the last day they’ll see each other alive. It leads me to wonder what life would be like if I was brought up without privileges and hence contemplate the concept of equality and justice in our system.

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