We travel, me and my quiz partner. We are, what others call “avid quizzers”. In our own humble opinion we are not too good, but no that bad either. We were in another city for the very same reason. We had participated in a quiz a couple of days back, which we incidentally won, though not comprehensively. Glowing in the aftermath of sweet victory, we were about to leave for our not-so-homely (and temporary) hometown, when we heard the news of terrorist violence in that area. A curfew had been declared. We decided to postpone our departure. Better safe than sorry, eh? Well, actually neither of us wanted to die celibate, never did want to. So we were gifted some free time, which we immediately put to good use by starting to have some fun. We went to this Book Fair that this city was hosting. Or is it boasting? Whatever. We bought some books and ogled at some great looking paperbacks- Indian editions. All of a sudden, both of us simultaneously remembered a common friend who lived in the city, one whom we had not met for quite some time. Since his place was very near where we were still checking out the paperbacks, we started to stroll towards our newfound destination- our friend’s house. On the way we came across a cricket stadium. The outfield was lush and the pitch must have been grassy. The swing was beautiful. The steady breeze and overcast conditions also helped. What was surprising, though, was that the new ball was reverse swinging too!! Both of us kept staring at the swing up ahead as we kept walking. Eventually, we had to leave the sight behind as we turned into a by-lane.
We knocked. The door was opened by a beaming Gandhi. That’s what we called him, what all his friends called him. Not because he is as honest as Gandhi was supposed to be, but since he is as bald as his namesake. Upon seeing us his smile broadened. We went up to his room. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, he came right to the point.
“Where’s my treat?” No word of congratulations though!
Yeah, he came to know that we had won some dough in the quiz. No, we did not tell that to him ourselves.
“Fine”, me and my partner said in unison. If you are wondering, we do have ESP. both of us- “The Defenders of Faith”!!
It was quickly decided that we would go to a newly opened Café Coffee Day joint, and that we would be riding his car. Brakes squealed and rubber burned as that maniac drove his thirty-year old car. (He is twenty-four, by the way. So are we). I grasped onto the dashboard and my partner ducked under the backseat. Thankfully it was all over quickly. Tires screeched as the car, still surprisingly in one piece, café to a halt outside the bustling Café. I rolled up the passenger side window and stepped out.
A little boy. A cut little boy wearing a dirty yellow sweater and blue capris. He was barefoot. It was then that I realized that those were not capris. His trousers were a couple of inches too short for him. He looked earnest and there was honesty in his eyes, and pain too, as he said:
“Sir, will you give me a little money to eat?”
“What?” I thought I had not heard correctly.
“I want to buy some rice for home”.
I looked at him for a moment. He looked true. There were many kids who tricked people with similar lines. But I am a pretty good judge of persons, and he struck me as true. I took out my wallet and handed him a ten rupee note. He took it and rushed to the nearby grocery. I kept watching him for a moment. Then the futility of everything struck me, and struck me hard. There is so much pain and hurt in this world, and we manage to ignore it all and live our own secure lives. Are we so uncaring? Are we becoming more dispassionate day by day as a race? Or is it just a self-defense mechanism of our psyche so as sanity could be maintained? I had no answers.
I kept staring at the little boy who lived down the lane trudged towards his home with a small bag of supplies. I wished I had given him some more money. I wished I could have given him a little happiness. I felt bad. I felt sad. My heart pained.