Tarannum’s life hadn’t been easy. She had been through it all; having had to do odd jobs to bring food to the worn out mat in her little jhuggi every night; having been burnt up to her face, while making her first meal for the family, while her parents had been out; having being married off to a man who beat her up every night, and having to put up with in-laws who never let her forget the worst day of her life.
It had been an unusually quiet and peaceful night and Tarannum had decided to pay a long overdue visit to her friends at the Women’s Shelter, next to the Jama Masjid. She rarely visited the shelter that had helped her survive in the years of her youth, these days. She had been growing short on both patience and funds, these last few days, and this place promised her more of both. She would spend some time here and they would provide her a meal and a concrete roof over her head-what more could she ask for? She took a deep breath and stepped on the step leading to the Masjid with a wistful smile, already feeling younger, and remembering the lost days of her youth, if only she could feel like this every day….
She ran past the gathered masses. She could see her jhuggi burning in the distance, with great alacrity. Somehow she knew her son was trapped inside. She couldn’t even recognize which home was hers. Her five year old son, Sartaj, had died in the fire that had destroyed nearly all the slums near hers.
The boy was charred to death in the fire. “The government promised us compensation two years ago”, she informed the Public Grievances Head, Ms Swati Maliwal, at the Janta Samwad. She had written multiple letters to the then Delhi Government, for the past two years requesting for compensation that had been promised to her. “I have two infant daughters, my husband is in jail and my father has no money left. I don’t want my remaining children’s lives to get ruined!” she cried. “The government is not letting me forget the past; I have to re-live it every, single day, running from one department to the next, for the past two years! I need the money to start my life afresh, away from that cursed colony!” A lifetime of frustration streamed down her face, in the form of tears. “Please, do something”, she now begged us, with a desperation that chilled us to the bone.
From that day, Tarannum came each week to the Janta Samvad, to learn the progress of her case. And each week, the light in her eyes burnt a little brighter, the smile on her face, grew a little warmer. The case was being closely followed by the Public Grievance Monitoring System (PGMS) and had now reached the DC’s office from the Revenue Department. Finally, after another two weeks, she was accompanied to the SDM by one of PGMS officers. The SDM asked her to bring two witnesses with her and to sign some papers. That was it. When she finally received the compensation, she was shocked that the PGMS of the current Delhi government had accomplished in one month, what the previous government had been unable to do in the past two years.
She came back to the Arvind Kejriwal’s house then, her eyes shining with unspeakable gratitude. Instead of thanking us, she surprised us by saying, “I knew you would get our work done. The day your volunteers brought us food and shelter after the fire, I knew that you would help us."