Tuesday, April 22, 2008
A feel-good memory
A couple of days back, I was blog-hopping and came across this post by Veens. This invoked in me, a feel-good memory of a not-so-long-back incident.
I was on vacation in India and I've been waiting for a friend at the RTC complex in Vizag when this incident took place. My friend called me and informed me that he's struck in traffic and it'll take him another 15 minutes to reach there. Having nothing to do apart from waiting for him, I looked around for a reasonably neat bench, found one and started playing games on my mobile.
After a few minutes, someone came and sat next to me. I was feeling uncomfortable as it seemed the person next to me is watching me closely. So I looked at him and found that he immediately shifted his gaze from me. He's an old man around 55-60 years and looked quite decent. He's holding a briefcase with a great caution. Soon, I got back to my game and again I got the same uncomfortable feeling.
I was about to ask him about his problem, when he suddenly started talking in fluent English(I'm writing what I can remember of our conversation. It went partly in English and partly, in Telugu):
Old man: Babu, please don't misunderstand me for a beggar.
Me(shocked): No uncle, I never felt so.
OM: Babu, I hail from a village in Srikakulam. I worked as a teacher and retired a year back. Yesterday, I went to Simhachalam to offer my prayers. I was waiting for a bus to return back to Vizag when someone stole my wallet. Some good person brought me from there to Vizag yesterday evening. Now, I don't have money to go back to my village. I'm feeling shy to ask you money but couldn't help it. Can you spare me Rs 5/-?
(He was hanging his head with shame when he asked me the money)
Me: Uncle, you said that you came here yesterday and what are you doing till today morning?
OM: I was ashamed to beg others for money. I was looking around in the bus-stand from last evening, to find someone whom I know. But I didn't find even a single person whom I know.
(It was then that I noticed that he seemed weak, probably because of lack of food from the previous evening.)
Me: Ok uncle, but how can you reach your village with Rs 5/- when it costs you around Rs 50/- for the bus fare itself?
OM: I have Rs 20/- left in my pocket and I asked some people for Rs 5/- in the morning. Two of them gave me Rs 5/- each. Now, I'll ask some other persons and somehow accumulate the required money.
Me: I'm sorry to ask so many questions but why don't you call your house and ask someone to come over.
(He have a dry smile)
OM: My wife died a couple of years back and my son left us long back for some girl. I've no one in my village except a few relatives and I don't want to embarrass myself before them by asking them the money.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry. How do you feel if I don't give you the money even after so many questions?
OM: I won't feel anything. I'll try my luck elsewhere. After all, what can you do for my bad time?
Me: Ok. How'll you repay me if I give you all your required money?
OM: I'll money-order it to your address after I get my pension. But I can repay you only in the first week of the next month.
Me: No uncle, I don't need the money. I'll give you your full fare but promise me that you'll call me after reaching your house that you reached safely.
OM: Babu, please don't over-burden yourself. I know the value of money. Give me only Rs 5/-. I'll ask some others for the deficit amount.
Me: Don't feel like that. Let me pay you the full fare. And now, can I ask you one final question? Will you come to the canteen with me for a light breakfast.
OM: Thanks for the money. But please excuse me for the breakfast. I don't like to make you spend much for me.
Me: You are like my grandpa. It's not a burden for me if I spend a small amount for you. That'll give me more satisfaction than anything
We both went to a small hotel in the bus-stand and I ordered some breakfast for him and tea for me. The satisfaction in his face when his breakfast arrived was enough for me to forget all my problems for sometime. Just then, my friend called me that he reached our scheduled place and was waiting for me. Then I gave this old man Rs 30/- for which he objected and asked for only Rs 20/-. I said that he may need them as a security and persuaded him to take it. Then I paid the bill and left.
When I met my friend, he started scolding me in a teasing manner that I was angry on him for being late and in the end, it was me who's late. Then I told him the story after hearing which he laughed and said "Satish, welcome to India". I know that these things happen in India but I believed the old man after seeing the innocence in his face and honesty in his ways. I just laughed at my friend and said Rs 50/- is not going to change my life.
The real surprise came late on that evening when I got a call from an unknown number. It was from the same old man. He said he was calling from a pay phone so that I can make sure that he's calling from Srikakulam by looking at the STD code and he reached safely and thanked me for my help. That night, I slept more peacefully than any other night.