Thursday, August 13, 2009

I have no home but I have a lawyer....

When I read the synopsis of John Grisham's book - The Street Lawyer, I was confused. It talked about homeless lawyers and although I understood the term as lawyers for the homeless, I still could not grasp why they needed lawyers in the first place ! Wont they have enough trouble finding a place to eat and sleep ?

The book is not a fast moving thriller that makes you want to read chapter after chapter (even when you know you are unbelievably late for bed and your henceforth ensuing workday is not going to be great) ! The book is about an American lawyer, who just like any other lawyer, works 90 hours a week in a big firm, dreaming to become a partner one day and taking home a couple of million dollars a year and how his life drastically changes because of a hostage situation.

The escape from death suddenly gives him a whole new perspective and he regrets being a part of the rat race. His restlessness leads him to public interest law and it was this part of the book that totally shook me.

I have just jotted down what I learnt (from the book and the follow-up internet research I did), along with my feelings (in Italics)

There are millions of homeless people in the US and nearly half of them are African-american. If a developed country like the US has this many homeless people, what is happening in the developing countries ? I am really scared to even look up the numbers in India.

There are people and families that actually freeze to death, not because they were out skiing or they lost their way in a snow storm but simply because they do not have a shelter or a place to live. I cannot imagine taking out the trash in my pyjamas in winter. This makes me glad that India is protected weatherwise, to a large extent but images of people sleeping on platforms in Nainital came to mind. I was there in November a few years ago to meet a cousin and I remember how cold it was even inside the house.

Numerous crack babies are born every year. I did not even know what this term meant until today. They refer to babies that are born to mothers who consumed crack heroine (commonly known as crack) while they were pregnant.

75% of the homeless are either addicted to alcohol or drugs and/or involved in prostitution. Being ''clean'' for 24 hours is considered a record. When these people have no money for food where do they find money for drugs or alcohol ? Is it like a barter system with the latter leading to the former ?

There are lawyers who help the homeless and naturally for free. They fight against the Govt. that makes homelessness a crime - cops chasing away or even worse, arresting people sleeping on parks or bus stops. They fight the social security system to make sure these people get the benefits they deserve. I somehow still have difficulty wrapping my head around ''Fighting the system''...I thought it was a curse reserved for the developing countries.

There are shelters and soup kitchens that feed hundreds of people everyday. But there are millions of homeless, what are the others doing for food ?

Even in these shelters and soup kitchens, there are always too few volunteers and too many homeless people. Why can't every firm/university have a ''volunteer day'' every quarter ? When the Govt. can spend time and money making new traffic rules, tax rules, rules against smoking in public, why is someone dying from hunger not an important concern? I am going to remember this everytime I touch a morsel of food.....I really am.....

Just like no place is immune to disease and sickness, there is also no place immune to hunger and poverty. If only each one of us donated some time, money, care and attention to it (and there are numerous ways to do it !!), maybe one fine day....we can drive it out and make this world a better place to live ! It may sound cliched, dramatic but I wish for it to come true with all my heart and soul...I really do....
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