Friday, April 04, 2008

At times, I Just Don’t Know what to do

I walk out of the airplane and quickly make my way to the car waiting outside. As usual the rush hour madness has caused a road block. Harried passengers are standing on both sides of the road waiting for their pick up. I stand there not thinking of anything particularly. And that’s when I see him. He is on all his fours, crouching, as polio has rendered his legs weak. He can’t stand, he can’t walk, his legs are weak, thin and disfigured. But, he has mastered the art of crouching and hopping using his hands and two legs. He hops to me and stretches his arm.
I instinctively turn away; I am programmed to block my vision so that I don’t see him. I look ahead at people chattering, waiting and getting annoyed in general. I don’t see him anymore. But I just can’t seem not “see” him. I can’t help wondering how calloused his hands are from all the hopping he does. I feel my palms, soft and moisturized. I wonder if his palms have ever been soft and moisturized. Curiosity gets the better of me. I turn back, he’s gone. Was he a figment of my imagination? I am sure not. I have not gone totally bonkers yet. I turn again, and see him deftly crossing the road to the other side of “waiters” having tried is luck on this side.
I can’t bear to look at him. I don’t know why I am disturbed. I thought I had straightened this out. Evidently not. I think it’s his calloused hands.
I never pay beggars because momentarily helping them will never solve their problems. Also they are either healthy looking albeit underage mothers with deliberately tattered clothes and doped children, or they are kids performing some weird acrobatics, and anyway aren’t all of them part of a mean gang. A gang that kidnaps kids, disfigures them and then lets them loose onto the world to “beg”. It is a syndicate, that’s what they all say. Or aren’t most of them collecting money to get doped? I don’t know why exactly I am programmed not to yield to their misery and pay. The voice of reason without giving me any specific reason has told me not to pay. But as of now, I just don’t know what to do.
I try and ignore him. I try and surreptiously steal a glance. A car blocks his view. I heave a sigh of relief. I don’t see him anymore. But I just can’t seem not “see” him. I take a decision; a decision that is like all of my decisions, emotional. I decide to pay him. I know I have a hundred Rupee note in my wallet, but I fish around and find a thick wad of tenners. I start counting as I “cross over to the other side”. But counting seems so futile; I am in a hurry to get it over and done with. I reach to the other side of the car. He is gone. I look around and see him again hopping over with his arms outstretched. I quicken my pace and follow him. I try not to think all this while. He senses my presence and turns around. I hand him over the wad, avoiding eye contact. He seems to be in an equal hurry to get this over with. I turn away and at that moment I know. I have not paid him because I feel sorry for him, neither because I think his misery is more deserving than others, nor because I think it will help him in anyway. I just pay him so that I can stop “seeing” him. I think he knows that.
I cross back to my side of the road waiting for my car to come. When I think all is over I see him again. He is hopping with a renewed vigor and speed. Wait, he is hopping towards me. Have I challenged the age old wisdom and “voice of reason”? Have I “encouraged” a “street urchin” to “tackle me emotionally”? I relax because I see he can’t be bothered to bother with me. He is carrying on with his business. I turn away and I can’t see him anymore. It is true money can buy you most things.
The car comes and I speed away with it. As I sit in the car I see a bill board screaming: “Why party with your friends this weekend when you can party in Singapore?” Like I said at times I just don’t know what to do.