by Charles G Chettiar
If I would give out any piece of advice, it would be to lock your pity inside you. Tie a milestone around it and sink it in the deepest part of your heart, never to surface.
It was pity that got me. It was pity that was my undoing. It was pity due to which I am lying here, at the side of the road.
People pass me by and put coins in front of me. I am not even able to raise my hand that I am not a person to be pitied. I don't need their pity. I need a helping hand to get out of this mess.
Then I see her.
The very first time I saw her was when she had not even a begging bowl I front of her. She had a child in her lap. What I felt I shouldn't have felt. If I had felt differently may be I wouldn't have had this experience.
Her eyes locked into mine. I fished in my pants pocket and came up with a rupee coin. I examined it and saw that it was old, minted 1995. I flicked the rupee coin towards her and it landed at her feet. Her eyes on me felt like a vice had grasped my mind. I couldn't pull away for many instances, but finally was able to. As I walked away I felt that stare following me. It seemed that I had left something with her.
I was low the entire day and even a colleague's birthday cheer, another's engagement and even another's final wedding announcement couldn't put me in higher spirits.
My train ride was a mere ten minutes and I didn't hope for much during it. But the appearance of a begging woman with an infant and a toddler made me break into a sweat. I didn't notice till the woman and her children were in front of me. I was not going to pay attention but a whiff of perfume hit me. A tantalising jasmine. I looked up to see a well-scrubbed face and clothes which were nearly clean. The child in her arms wore diapers and a muslin cloth. The toddler tailing her had a school uniform on.
I put my hand in my wallet and removed a 500 rupee note. She took it like it was her deemed right.
And it felt like giving money to my wife—a wife I never had.
I didn't see much of my doom in that gesture but if I had I would have disregarded it.
What I did see was the transformation of the woman. I was going to get a picture-perfect life.
But on whose cost?
The next day became the homecoming day.
She was there again in the train. The children were impeccably dressed. She even had lip gloss on her. We all four got down at the station and took a rickshaw.
My flat, only after they entered, I realised that it had always been child-friendly. They didn't bump or bang their heads anywhere. I sat reading the newspaper like a man of the house and she cooked.
A most delicious meal.
It was like welcoming my family home after a long illness.
But this time instead of a single member three were welcomed. The children fit in as if they were always present in the building and the locality. She made friends—fast friends who got invited to the house and commented to me that I was a lucky man for getting such a wonderful woman and family.
The big boy snuggled into school and I dropped him off every day in his red and white school uniform.
I didn't notice the change but a colleague pointed it out.