December is not the time when Lord Surya blesses north India. There is a dull, uninterested glow during the day, if any, and the wind whizzes past the ears of those who care to listen at night. Chill runs through the spine and kids snuggle up in their blankets, refusing to take a bath; even to come out of it.
Lucknow remains eerily quiet on such nights. The dry cold roams on the streets looking for victims. The find them in plenty, especially those homeless living hosadiaya chauraha and kathuata chowk. Poor rickshaw puller, rag pickers and daily wagers. They huddle together around hastily drawn bon fire, waiting to the flames to die, so that they could sleep in much discomfort. The much publicized blanket donation by the state government could not trickle down to these localities, it seemed.
Around mid night, almost every day a group of college boys pass this crossing. On three or four bikes, they come laughing and shouting. It seems that peace for these homeless pedestrians is compromised. But on the second look, it is opposite. The daily wagers look forward eagerly for these rowdy-lookalikes.
These college goers bring with them warm tea for the homeless. They set up trays on their bikes and serve out tea in small paper cups. The poor crowd around them for tea. Sometimes they bring warm snacks. Once a week they supply firewood to these locals. But they enjoy the tea most.
Ramphal, a rickshaw puller says, “Bhaiya log sardi mein do ghoont chai pilate hain. Acha lagta hai, garam chai peena.” The boys laugh and chat with these local homeless. It’s a mini party out there, for next thirty minutes or so.
Sambal, an elderly daily wager gives them his blessings, “Gareeb ko chai pilana upar wale ka kaam hai.” Kettle after kettle finishes up and the look of satisfaction on the faces of both the boys and his customers increases. A few of them discuss their day over a cup of tea; others indulge in rustic sense of humour while a few take their cup back to their sleeping cloth. Ten minutes of a cup of tea is perhaps the only luxurious moment of peace for most of them.
We asked the boys what else they plan on doing, or if they are going to expand. They said (anonymously) that being college students, they have limited funds. “We spend what we save each month. This is our way of feeling good. We love to ride on cold nights, and along the way we spread some warmth. Neither there is a concrete plan to expand, nor is any of this for shoe. We do our share.” On asking why they not contribute to Chief Ministers’ plan to donate blankets, he replied, “They sell anything that is not edible to buy drugs or alcohol. We don’t want that. Giving them a moment of respite from this cold is all we want.”
The biker gang comes loudly, shouts and laughs, serve some hot, hot tea and go away zooming. The cold wind won’t find any victim here.