It is human nature to jump to assumptions, conclusions and pass judgments in nano seconds. A small incident can reveal many facets of the human character in the space of a few minutes.
It was with a great deal of reluctance that I went for my walk today, as I was still feeling sleepy, having slept pretty late last night, but the call of the birds was irresistible, and I did not resist. Doffing my hat to their persistence, I stepped out.
The road outside my flat was vacant, except for a frowzy foursome fulminating about everything under the sun.
“Yesterday, there was such a massive cloud cover, I thought it would rain, but there was no rain,” remarked the first Frowzy.
“Yes. A slight breeze and the clouds vanished,” added the second Frowzy.
“It was so humid! Yesterday, I bathed thrice. I was itching all over, with prickly heat,” said the third Frowzy, scratching his armpit vigorously.
“You know, I had gone to meet my parents in Udaipur a few days back, and it was great to see Fateh Sagar Lake overflowing. It is after two years that water has gushed out of the gates of Fateh Sagar Lake, you know,” enthused the fourth Frowzy.
“See, see, I took some selfies too.”
And the Frowzy Foursome swooped down on his cell phone.
“Itna Paani!” they exclaimed, snatching the cell phone from him one after the other.
Soon oohs and aahs echoed in the air, to which a homeless cow added her pathetic moos, and an emaciated dog added a whimper or two.
Suddenly, there was another whimper, and it was not a canine one. It came from the wall fronting the apartments. From a bundle of rags.
Soon the foursome stopped raving at the selfies, and raced towards the bundle. And the bundle moved.
“He is stinking.”
“He is drunk.”
“He must be a child snatcher,” said the third Frowzy, who had been scratching his armpit, now lifting his right leg to kick him.
“Arrey, yeh to Narayan Hai”. (Oh, he is Narayan!)
The third Frowzy’s leg stopped in mid-air and his neck whirled in the direction of the new voice. This new entrant was, not only as bedraggled as the one on the ground, but very old too.
“Why do you want to beat the poor fellow? What harm has he done you? What made you think he is a child-snatcher or a thief, huh? He is a labourer, works on that site over there, and has just come from Jharkhand and stays with me in my shack,” he said, bending down, to put a hand on his forehead.
“Oh, he has fever. “Narayan, utho,” (Narayan, get up) he said shaking him, and making him lean against the wall.
Suddenly my eyes fell on Kanchan racing towards our house, wiping her forehead with her saree paloo. In no time, her eyes had taken in the scene, and before I could say something, she had dashed into our house, swiftly made a cup of tea for him and with the tea, a few bread slices, and the medicine box had dashed out. She knew where the medicine box was, as she would often ask for pain killers for some ailment or the other.
I looked at her with a new found admiration as she handed over the cup and bread slices to the man, who gulped down the tea and slices as though he had been starving for many days. I noticed that the man was very young, not yet out of his twenties. He looked around dazedly and then looked at me sheepishly, trying to get up.
“I was hungry, just came from Jharkhand a couple of days back.”
The old man gave him a helping hand and soon both were heading towards the shack where the old man lived.
“Thodi der main dawaai kahaa lena, khali pait nahi khaatyey hain dawaai.” (Have the medicine after some time. You should never have medicines on a hungry stomach.) Kanchan shouted after them, looking at me with a shy smile, saying, “Aap kehtey ho naa, hai na? (You say so, don’t you?)
I looked for the Frowzy Foursome, there was no one around. They had vanished into thin air.
“Madam, log kitney gandey hotey hain [People are very mean]. I have seen liquor bottles lined outside their flats, and they were after this poor man – calling him a drunk and what not! And he was not even drunk!” She was indignant.
The Frowzies would have beaten him to pulp as they took him for a drunk and a poor wastrel at that. Being drunk is fine but being drunk and poor is not acceptable. You can be lynched for that. And being human? Well, that’s another story.
I looked at the twosome walking away into the distance. Why did I feel a lullaby magically travelling from some far off village, on the wings of the morning breeze and smoothening away the wrinkles on the young man’s face? As Kanchan went back into the house to start her day’s work, a question popped up in my mind, who is poor?
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