Wednesday, July 29, 2009

His self-esteem chose to eat out of a waste bin than to hold out his hands and beg…

I stood there waiting for my friend to arrive. I was getting annoyed as he had taken too long and it had been a tiring day for me. Shifting my weight from one leg to the other, shielding my eyes from the glaring sun, I peered to gaze as far as possible, hoping to see him hurrying towards me, but to no avail. He was nowhere in sight. Having nothing else to do, while I waited, I started watching the people passing by and the ladies selling ethnic Indian artifacts on the floor. There were shops all around me - three big names in the fast food chain, a famous shop selling milk shakes, a man selling cold drinks and mineral water from his cycle cart, a beggar girl selling roses and a corner shop selling imported perfumes and other toiletries. The workers at an excavation site, just a stone’s throw away from where I stood, were creating a racket with their power drills and other tools. Everyone was busy. People were walking by rather purposefully… all had some dead line to meet...a bus to board, an appointment to keep, a destination to reach...

Then I saw him. A man in his late forties. His soul seemed crushed and he staggered pretty aimlessly. He was unkempt but not grubby. His shoes were worn out but polished. He looked tired and carried an old crushed polybag (by the look of it, it seemed that he was carrying a file inside) close to his chest. He walked with a slight bend in his back. There was no trace of a smile on his face. I doubted if he smiled often. His hair was a mixed shade of gray and brown…disheveled, rough and not paid much attention to. A stoke of ill fate seemed to have struck him off-guard. But definitely he had seen better days. He walked slowly and as close to the side walls and corners as possible, as if not wanting to come in anybody’s way and attract attention. Lost in some thoughts and frowning under his bushy grey brows, all of a sudden he quickened towards the a tall green public waste bin made of iron, kept out side the fast food giant’s store. He lifted the lid and peeped in for a second. Then lowering the lid, he scanned the life happening to his left and then to his right...probably looking for any familiar faces…that might cause him shame. While his eyes frantically searched the crowd, they momentarily rested upon me, sending me into an immediate stir to cover up for my unapologetic stare. Whatever I did, it seemed to have conveyed to him that I had no interest in his errand, as he calmly got back to lifting the lid back off the bin and sifting through the waste in it. After a few moments of searching he lifted something wrapped in a tissue paper. From where I stood, it looked like a half eaten burger. He bit into it. He liked it. Letting go of the lid, he squatted on the floor to enjoy the meal that he had just found. The bin hid his frail body from my gaze. As if it were cosmos’s own way of shielding the compromising situation of this man from the only audience that he was unaware of. For all the confusing thoughts that flooded my mind and the emotions that this sight had stirred within me, I did not desire to mortify him or outrage his modesty. Thus, I decided to stir clear of buying him a meal.

I had seen - man laid bare. His shame..his worst fear, his anxiety. What had gone on behind his hungry scavenging? What must have been his mental and emotional state? He looked like he had been looking for a job (by the file in his hand). That day was definitely not his lucky day. Did he have other hungry stomachs to feed back home? Or was he a loner? I can’t decide which would have been better- to have had someone to rest his woes in but who was equally anguished, or to have no worry of liabilities and be left alone in one’s worries too. I couldn’t help but doubt my every achievement, my every quest…all that I thought that was mine and that I wanted to make mine. That ninth dress that I want to buy, that fifth pair of shoes that I need. Are they all really needs? Why can I never draw the line? His self-esteem chose to eat out of a waste bin than to hold out his hands and beg. I do not consider myself much to say of both either self-esteem or of begging. All that is left of that day within me is a reiterating question that keeps imposing itself…how long would it have been, before hopelessness got the better of him? Had he been able to hold on..hang in there until fate reversed?

1 comment:

  1. Hey its so touching!! so true!! it is well said in our country - 2 India lives!!