Have you ever wondered why philosophers, poets and seers compare ‘Life’ to a ‘brook’ or ‘The undulating waves of the sea’? It’s evident that life and all its elements are dynamic…..they are changing, every moment. Every atom in this cosmos, each cell of our body, the gross and the subtle, the flora and the fauna are being renewed. We don’t realize it, but we are born again every moment and so are our ideations and perceptions.
A thought arises in a person’s mind; it is nourished and nurtured, loved and cherished. Later it becomes a perception or a belief. A time comes when this perception vanishes like a shadow does, when the shadow witnesses just a hint of light. It doesn’t take a miracle to change a person’s perceptions. A mere seminal event or a bit of awareness is enough. After all it was just an apple that led Adam to his ‘Fall’ and Newton to his ‘Theory of Gravitation’.
I would like to recount a simple incident from my own life. I belong to a family that believes in propriety, the principles of morality and truthfulness. As a child, I was told to respect people and their feelings, to be generous and polite. I vaguely remember that as a kid, I never hesitated to give a beggar some largess. This act of virtue was later touted as an act of foolishness, as it encouraged the vice of begging. With time, my attitude towards beggars was transformed into indifference bordering on contempt. A similar emotion is shared by thousands of people living in the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai. The good news is that this so called abject community of beggars is not bracketed alongside the hard core criminals, terrorists, dacoits and thieves. The bad news is that the official records do not acknowledge the existence of beggars nor does the common man. They are simply ignored and brushed aside as a bunch of badgering people.
We all know that there is an elaborate machinery that churns out these people. The vulnerable ones esp. children, women and old people are recruited, their body parts pruned, and they are taught the tricks of the trade. They are taught to plead, grieve and wail. Later these actors of the street are installed at different locations. If you’re a keen observer, you’ll find the same person at the same location each day of the week, religiously playing his part. Everyday on my way to office and back home, I come across many a beggar and everyday I curtly dismiss them, ignore them.
On one such ordinary day, I was heading home in a rickshaw. The vehicle stopped at the signal and as usual few beggars came running towards the vehicles at the stop. A small girl not more than six years of age approached me. I generally deal with the little ones in a nicer way as I love them. I was about to send this kid away but I just couldn’t when I saw her face. She resembled my little niece Lillian about the same age. My niece is a sweet, adorable and naughty child. She is treated like a queen. I could easily connect to this little beggar girl with riddled clothes. Surprisingly, her eyes were sans any hint of sadness. She was not a poseur or performer. I wonder if this was her first day in the profession as she seemed as excited as Lillian generally is when I give her a doll or chocolate.
Seeing the innocence, purity and unwavering joy of this child, my heart welled up with mixed emotions. The sea of emotions poured through my eyes as I feared that this child would be robbed off her cherubic innocence and happiness. She would be trained to feign and pose, to wail and plead. At that moment a little miracle happened. Something in me died forever. It was the indifference and apathy towards beggars. My mind was bombarded with the cosmic questions…….what is the purpose of life? Why did God give all the happiness to a handful and left the others to lament? Isn’t he called the merciful one? A part of me knew the answer to these questions. All of us have known the answers. I guess God creates a gap to give us an opportunity to fill the same. We keep missing the point lifetimes after lifetimes. Some days back, I saw a small kid at the Borivali platform. She was engaged in some activity, unruffled by the buzz around. She held a rectangular marble piece in one hand. She placed it atop a big cemented slab and carved out the small rectangular shape. She used a stone as a hammer and within minutes she was an owner of two similar sized rectangular pieces. She meticulously slid these between her fingers and rattled them. A melody was born. I couldn’t make much of this trivial pursuit. I knew though that this destitute child had innate talents and she could grow up to become an esteemed sculptor or an artist. Later, my husband reasoned that the child must be preparing her tools for ‘Begging’. I was saddened by this explanation. Today I am concerned. But the question is, Is this concern enough?
Payal Walia Hattar
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