Monday, February 05, 2007

now and forever

4th February 2007
2300hrs
Last night, I was still trying to get over the spilt milk but it was somewhat different since yesterday; I surrendered my life to God (again!!!), this time for good. So I said a little prayer and thought of the things that Ashish said to me the night before; “we should not live a self centered life, we have responsibilities towards others. Once we realize that, our personal problems will seem but trivial.”Still feeling somewhat lonely after saying a prayer, I thought of doing something like helping someone or even bringing a smile to someone’s face.
Suddenly I remembered that there was an old bed sheet lying in my cupboard that I had planned (a year back) to give to a poor man , a lunatic that I’d seen sleeping at the bus stop. Many a times during my late night winter walks, I’d seen the mad-man burning leaves and discarded cartons to keep warm in the extreme winter cold; he’d then cuddle up under the cemented bench into a kind of sphere with the least possible surface area exposed to the chill. In that state it was difficult to distinguish whether that sphere was just a pile of dry leaves covered with a ragged cloth or a human being trying to keep warm. It wasn’t the first time I had seen such a pitiful sight, I remember the time in Bombay when I was 10 or 11 years old, I’d seen a wretched man begging on the railway station, one of his leg was possibly gangrened and the necrotic flesh was maggot infested. The sight had such a strong impact that I compared every miserable fellow to the guy I saw in Bombay, and every time I’d walk away feeling sad but saying “he’s not in half as bad a condition as that guy”. Never having been denied food for more than a few hours in my life of 27years, I'm quite oblivious to pains other than the ones caused by deceit, love, ego and other similar causes. Those are the ones that usually cause me to lose sleep, become spiteful and have other effects like stress related hair fall.I thought it was high time that I gave a warm cover to the mad man, that is, if I could still find him at the bus stop. I was extremely attached to this bed cover; it was a handloom product with a recurring pattern that looked like jewelry design from Rajasthan. A central oval core with a periphery covered with tendril like projections. It was multicolored, i.e. longitudinal strips of red, blue and green each with the aforementioned design woven in. The periphery of the bed cover had a pattern of long threads knotted together. It was heavy and I remember my mother used to complain about the weight every time she washed it. I loved sleeping on it, it was soft, not smooth like satin but it gave a feeling of a warm hug every time I lay down on it. It had faded now, it was old, it was bought around 23 years back. I was 4 or 5 years old then; I loved it from the first day. It was probably the only article left over from the time when I was very young, when my grandmother was around. Secretly I smuggled it into my cupboard many years back when my parents were planning to give it away to the house maid. Once in a while, I’d spread it on his bed and sleep on it. I could never find another like it. But it hadn’t been used for the past 3-4 years and on seeing the man at the bus stop one night, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to give the sheet to him; my parents wanted it out of the house.
So tonight would be the night I thought to myself. It was around 7:30pm, I picked the bed sheet and took a good look at it, it had faded over the years but surprisingly there was not a single hole in it. I constantly caressed the cloth as I walked, feeling it for the last time and committing the feeling to my memory. Opposite to the bus stand was a marriage party being conducted at the community centre, many beautiful and not so beautiful people talking loudly and smelling of sweet perfume adorned the road between the bus stop and the community centre.For some unknown reason, I felt that I wouldn’t meet the one he intended to. I was wrong; as I walked closer to the bus stop, I saw the disheveled figure crouching in a corner and staring with blank eyes at the happy people in front of him and at some distance lay some dry leaves, grass and empty cartons. On the bench lay another human being, crouched and fast asleep, I wondered how the man could sleep with the blaring bhangra music playing a few yards away; I didn’t want to think too much about it. I half unfolded the cloth and took it towards my man, he stood up (he was not particularly short) and came towards me, I was a little apprehensive for a second (twice, I’d seen the guy charge at unwary people). He gently took the sheet from me, opened it and covered himself (as if I brought something that belonged to him) with it and returned to his previous position. I wanted to say something but nothing came to my mind, he took it as if he was waiting for me to bring the sheet to him, as if we’d talked about it before. I had a strong urge to say something so I did, something that could’ve made a mad man retort back at me, “are you mad?” I asked, “yeh kaam aegi?” (Is this of any good to you?) The very next second I thought to myself, “the guy’s all covered up in it, what kind of a question was that? He used it the very second he took it” I really wanted to tell him that that sheet meant a lot to me so I made another stupid statement, “yeh mere bachpan ki bed sheet hai, mujhe bahut acchi lagti hai!” (This is a bed sheet from the days of my child hood and I’m very fond of it.)…the very next second I wondered who was a lunatic of the two of us; surely me. He looked at me and stuttered, “main wapas kar doonga.” (I’ll return it). I was taken aback and stuttered “nahi nahi, apne paas rakho.” (no no keep it with yourself). He was staring at something in the community centre, I looked in the direction where he was looking; FOOD. I thought to myself, this is it; I’m NOT getting him food now. I walked on, the whole market place was involved in some activity (of course…religious!!) and there were two huge tents pitched in and there was a “paath” in progress in one and “langar” in another. People were flooding the gates of the langar tent, I thought to myself, why don’t I take some food from here for my mad-man. But that wasn’t the way they served food there, you were supposed to be seated. But all this I just presumed and walked on listening to the shabads and chants of “wahe guru”, I walked in between the crowd, feeling very lonely and helpless; I wanted to get some food for the guy (C’mon man it was for free, I could’ve gotten some). Then I returned to the langar tent with the intent of asking the co-ordinators if they’d give some food for a mad man sitting at the bus stop. By now the crowd was becoming unmanageable and the ones managing the scene seemed to be losing their temper; I decided not to enquire anything lest I was driven away or shouted upon by the angry men. But this too was a presumption, I walked back and crossed the bus stop, I couldn’t see my mad man. I paused and looked carefully; I saw my bed sheet, it was enveloping my mad man lying under the bench. I doubt if someone had given him any food. I felt sad, but I walked back home. If God was testing me by putting me in this situation; I failed but something in me was shaken out if its slumber. If I would’ve asked for some food, maybe I would’ve been given some or maybe I would’ve been shouted upon but at least I could’ve tried. The fact is that there was a hungry man there and plenty of food some distance away and there was a guy that saw them both but for some reason, chose to walk back home with his head hanging low. Anyway the good part is that since then, I’ve been wondering, “My personal problems are not so big after-all, are they!!”Right now, I’m feeling extremely hungry, I thought I’d stay hungry to feel the pain of hunger to a small degree; I can’t, I’m going to the kitchen.

2 comments:

Niharika said...

atta boy!!! as usual your writing skills amaze me to no ends.. you have this flair of bringing out the human side to any situation and that too in such a simple way that it automatically touches your heart and pulls a chord... amazing jess..amazing!!

jesse said...

Thnx niharika, I was so stuck with my own self and my own "little" problems that were causing me to lose sleep and torturing me endlessly... I was broken when I had to face the apathy of some egomaniacal characters...so I thought I'd go out and see some different kind of pain to realize that mine was small afterall.