Monday 15 September 2014

ShortStory 2014 Longlist, Alcatraz Dey


I saw him again, like I had seen him for the past thirteen days. He was busy counting his coins he had collected outside the temple. The irony is religious institutions have just become centres for commercial gains. My focus is not on the money they make inside or outside a temple. My focus is on the man whom I had been following from the past two weeks. There was something exponentially calm about him. Although he tanned himself free of cost under the Bangalore sun begging for money, his eyes had serenity that even the richest cannot afford. I was standing outside the small tea shop as always. He did not notice me, he never did.

 I was just  another man for him whom he did not care about. If I had stalked a girl for such long time, we would be singing duets in the Alps by now. The beggar did not seem to care at all. He looked at me with his eyes wide open, still counting the coins in his hand. He was headed towards the lottery shop once again. I felt it completely foolish of him to invest in preposterous lottery tickets. I thought of advising him to mend his ways. I had been keeping a watch on him from thirteen days hoping someday I would talk to him.
I finished my coffee and paid the vendor. My steps were fast paced and I was headed towards the lottery shop to meet the beggar. That is when I saw it. The smile on his face, the same smile he had every day after buying the ticket. I know perhaps most of us are approved and certified sinners. We can never feel the joy the beggar achieved by begging all day long and buying his ticket. I am not denying the fact that begging should be discouraged. But I saw in him something that most of us lack. The perseverance. “The Hope that never faltered.” He seemed to me like a wise man. I am sure deep inside he knew he would ever win anything, but what hit me was his undying spirit. My thought process had changed and now I wanted to talk to him more than ever. Perhaps, learn a thing or two on how to face disappointments day after day. For the world he was a beggar, for me he was one of those people who inspired me. I was so lost in my thoughts I lost track of him, before I could perceive he was nowhere to be seen.
I came back to the tea shop vendor; my heart wanted another cup after the disappointment it had faced. The vendor politely asked me " Sahab roz aakar us bhikari ko dekhte rehte ho, kya maanjra hain?"(You come here daily to look at the beggar, what is the problem?)
 I asked him if he knew anything about the beggar. The answer I received is something that has been engraved in my cerebrum for a long time to come.

"Sahab woh pehle railways mein manager tha, usko aids ho gaya kisi wajah se. Uski biwi ne tallak de diya, gharwalo ne bahar nikla diya. Uske baad usne apni aankhen daan kardi. Ek kutta hain uske paas. Marne se pehle uske liye kuch karna chahta hain"
(He was a railways manager. he was diagnosed with Aids. His wife divorced him and family members kicked him out of the house. He donated his eyes soon after. He has a dog, he wants to do something for it before he dies)

I knew now the reason for serenity in his eyes. He could not see the harshness and gluttony in this world, hence his eyes were a temple of joy. I never went there afterwards. He was a man much higher in stature than me. I was no one to advice him. Perhaps I should have learnt from him. Time and again Gandhiji's Talisman flashes in front of my eyes. “If you are hungry think of the poorest man you have ever seen." I know for one fact he might have been diagnosed with Aids, surely it was not of his own fault.

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