Not to be. A Board Meeting was scheduled for Monday, and since it was followed by dinner, I was going to be out of the house the entire day. The finals of our annual inter-project football tournament was scheduled for the Sunday before the Board Meeting, so what should have been a three day weekend had become a truncated single day weekend. It was not that I was not looking forward to the Interzonals- it is always a pleasure to see the kids on our programme come together for a sporting encounter- but I did wish it had been some other weekend.
Early Sunday morning, I got a call from a colleague. Pretty sure that she was calling me to remind me about something I would not have forgotten, I was almost tempted to ignore the call. I am glad I took the call. There had been a fire in the slum community where the tournament was being held, and the finals had been called off.
A hundred and fifty houses (each little more than shacks) gutted, two casualties- one a girl of three, several burn injuries- the sense of helplessness washed over me again. Three months back there had been a fire in the same community. We had pitched in with whatever help we could. All the things we had donated may well have been consumed by fire this time. Last time there had been no injuries- this fire was obviously worse (or maybe it caught them unawares at night).
For the last four weeks, the same community has been reeling for lack of water. They have not had a single drop of water in their taps, and have been forced to buy drinking water at five times the market rate. For all you know, this fire spread the way it did because there was no water to douse the flames. And yet, since the slum is built on land outside the municipal limits of the city, there is absolutely nobody to petition regarding their condition.
When and how a solution will be found, I don't know. All I know is that this is no way for people to be forced to live. And I am astounded that despite everything, the people continue to believe they can pull themselves out of poverty. Some even succeed.
And I got an unexpected holiday on Sunday. But spent the entire day feeling guilty about wishing for it.