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Friday, 24 August 2012

36. TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE


Let me take you to Lucknow of 1970 to share a personal experience which I found funny then but thought-provoking now.

I had given my wrist watch at Rupani Bros. for repairs. So on our way back from the University, I asked a friend of mine to stop over for a few minutes in Hazratganj to take care of my bicycle while I went to pick up my watch from the shop.

As I stepped down after picking up the watch, I was intrigued to find my friend grappling with a young beggar woman who was trying to wrench her wrist from her firm grip holding a baby in another arm. Suspecting trouble, I ran to my friend’s rescue and tried to intervene. In the melee’ that followed, the beggar-woman managed to pull her wrist away and ran, with me chasing her.

“Let her go. Let her go,” my friend called out after me. 

On hearing her, I stopped and came back.

“What had happened?” I inquired excitedly.

“Nothing,” my friend, cool as a cucumber, continued in her inimitable style, “This woman was asking for money. So I advised her to do some work instead of begging. I told her that she is hale and hearty and should not demean herself by seeking alms.”

“So, what happened then?”

“Well, she replied that there are no jobs available. So I told her that she should come with me. Our maid has left. She could stay in our servant quarters and work in our house. We would have given her salary as well as food and shelter. But she started running away. So I caught hold of her wrist and told her to sit on the carrier of my bike so that I could take her home. Ha..ha..ha..Seeing a potential employer, she ran away.”

As she shared this, we laughed and laughed pedalling our way home.

Today whenever I think of it, I can’t help thinking that we the people are basically responsible for encouraging beggary in our country. We think that by giving alms to beggars, we are washing away our sins or may be doing some good to humanity. Or is it that by doing so, we are unburdening ourselves of the guilt of having all that the poor beggar is deprived of?  The fact is that by giving alms to professional beggars, yes I mean professional beggars, we are only encouraging a tendency to beg and shun hard work. 

Here I must share a more recent experience of mine. While driving down quite late from office, I think it was around 11pm at night, that a pedestrian on the pavement near Hotel Hyatt Regency caught my eye. A frail bearded fellow wearing pants and T-shirt walking confidently looked very familiar …who is he?  Where have I seen him? I kept wondering without my brain finding an answer.

Next day morning, as I stopped at the same traffic junction, I sighted the same old, frail, bearded man who was lame also whom I had seen so many times begging at this traffic light. He walked with the help of a stick and had an aluminium begging bowl in his hand as usual. Half bent as he moved towards my car, the expression on his face invoked tremendous sympathy in the passersby.

It is then that it flashed like lightening, he was the same guy who I had seen walking confidently on the pavement the previous night with both legs intact! He was apparently in his professional attire now.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

35. THE ROMEO OF THE SEVENTIES

It was Lucknow University in the year 1970.  She was doing her post-graduation in Economics and was the only girl who cycled her way to the university from the Cantonment area.

Those days, although it was a co-ed institution, the interaction of boys and girls in the university was extremely limited. However, one particular boy started waiting for her at the Cycle Stand every day and would stalk her after the classes were over. On the lonely cantonment roads, on hot summer afternoons, it was extremely uncomfortable for her as he would keep his bike’s front wheel close and parallel to her rear wheel for full one hour.

She was an average looking girl, thin like a reed but had tremendous guts. She would abuse him every single day, but he was quite thick-skinned and would not give up. One day she pulled out her chappal while riding her bike and tried to hit him, but he ducked and kept smiling without allowing the distance between the two bicycles to increase. It was becoming highly irritating for her, but a strong person that she was, she would not seek anybody’s help in this. Over a period of time, it became too infuriating for her.

And one day, his courage knew no bounds and he decided to follow her to her house. As she stopped in front of her bungalow in the Cantt, he kept cycling further hoping to move on after seeing her house. Little did he realise that it was a blind road with barbed wires securing it from all sides with no exit available and he had no alternative, but to retrace his steps which he did.

Meanwhile, my friend acted fast and laid her bike across the road. She also called out her mother, a hefty woman from the village of Haryana, fed on the diet of pure milk, curd and home-made butter who was used to carrying three pitchers full of water on her head back home. In a minute, she was out on the road and by the time the young Romeo came back, the mother and daughter were ready for action.

They caught hold of him by the scruff of his neck, pulled him inside the bungalow and tied him to a pillar in the veranda. Within half an hour, her father, a Colonel in the Army had also come home for lunch. On hearing the story, he was all fire and threatened to send the boy to Quarter Guard for punishment. The boy was now scared like a mouse and was pleading for apologies.

Colonel Sahib listened to him and finally his heart melted and he decided to reduce the punishment. He ordered him to pick up the lawn mower and mow the grass of his one-acre lawn on that hot June afternoon which he took about five hours to complete. At the end of it, the poor Romeo was totally pooped out.

The boy was then allowed to go but thereafter was never sighted in the university.

I at times wonder now, what kind of turn the things would have taken place if the incident had taken place in today’s crime-infested society? Would the girl have been kidnapped, raped or murdered after this incident? Would she have been riding her bike with the same confidence in the subsequent days as she had done earlier? …Perhaps not.  

(A real-life incident)

                               *****