This story had appeared in Navabharat Times and is among the shortest pieces of fiction I have read. This story showed how intense emotion can be generated even with very few words, so that elaborate melodrama is absolutely not required. Now, in the beginning itself, let me raise the alert that the philosophy of the story is debatable. I myself couldn’t convince myself to the thinking of this story. This is a complex world, circumstances do not follow any computer algorithm; people are not logical creatures — it is not necessary that any person would act the same way in all possible circumstances and would deal with everybody in absolutely same fashion irrespective of the state of mind or circumstances. Anyway, let me narrate the story.
‘I had taken my seat in the bus and was going back home after a regular day at office. The bus was not yet full and the conductor was looking for more passengers. I took the window seat and waited patiently for the bus to start. One man was sitting next to me. After some time, a beggar came to the window and raised his hand towards me, asking for alms, “My son is ill, Sir, please give me some money for his treatment.” I looked at him, and filled with sympathy and pity, took out Rs 10 note and gave it to him. The beggar took it and went away. The person sitting next to me was visibly annoyed; he shouted in an excited voice, “Hey hey Sir, what are you doing? Don’t do that!”
“Why?” I asked, “What happened?”
“You don’t know these people. One day son ill, other day mother died, always some excuse. But in fact, nothing like that. This is their profession. They are all frauds, earning huge amount of money this way. They have turned begging into a business. And innocent people like you get trapped into their net. In future don’t do that again.”
I listened carefully, understood his words of wisdom, and nodded my head. He was right. Definitely.
The next day I found myself in a similar sitation once again. I was sitting at the window seat in the bus and waiting for it to start. One beggar, old and tired, came to the window and stretched his hand towards me, “Help me Sir, my wife has died. I need some money for her funeral.”
I remembered what was told by my fellow passenger of the previous day, and immediately shouted back at the beggar –
“Go away! Move back! I know all of you, don’t want to work, don’t want to labour and just earning by exploiting people. You are all parasites, have turned begging into a business. One day your son is ill, one day your mother, and today here your wife has died. This is your profession. Liar, fraud, cheat. Move back, I say!”
The beggar got frightened, and silently moved away from the window. Deeply satisfied with my little achievement, I sat properly on my seat, and tried to be calm once again. In any case, I was very proud of myself, for this was the first time I had acted in a judicious way not carried away by momentary emotions. My chest broadened, head was high. Soon, the conductor closed the door, asked the driver to start and took his seat. As the bus moved on, I thought for a moment, and out of curiosity brought my head to the window and looked back. And there I saw that old beggar trying to hide his face from the crowd all around him and wiping his tears.’
This was the story.
Hope now you understand what I was trying to say at the beginning of this article. This is a very complex world, yet we always seek a sure-shot formula to live through it, we want to know a flow-chart that would tell us how to act in certain circumstances, how to deal with certain class of people — parents, teachers, children, neighbours, office colleagues, friends, strangers and so on. However, in reality, every person is different. Secondly, we can almost never know a stranger — unless we are a highly trained sociobiologist or a psychologist. And we see the consequences on a routine basis nearly everyday. People who looked so innocent and simple, turned out to be cheats and scoundrels. But worse is the case when we take the genuine and honest people as cheats. Perhaps this is the worst result of the prevailing scenario in society. The wicked environment has made us callous and apathetic, pessimistic that any goodness could even exist in this world. And worse still, as a negative feedback, when we ignore such small flashes of genuine and true people and events, we also extinguish any hope for a better society in future.
On a personal level, I have no count of the number of times I was cheated, backstabbed or let down. Those I thought as highly intellectual and learned, and looked up as potential role models, turned out to be uncivilized brutes and animals, with absolutely no sense of manners or etiquette. Every such experience breaks something inside me, and makes me more indifferent and apathetic. Somehow slowly I am losing faith in humanity. Yet, at the same time, something is keeping me away from accepting that as the new truth, and still holding me to the age old philosophy of optimism and hope. Let us give humanity another chance. But how many times? Whenever any new person comes, I erase the slate, and make a new beginning. I should rather say that I ‘try’ to make a new beginning, because old scars and wounds don’t heal so fast; to a great extent, our actions are dictated by our past experiences. And lo, that happens again.
Some friends scold me for helping young students and interacting with them. Still, whenever any new student comes who is just taking first steps in the science field, I cannot resist myself from helping to make their path easier. My friends warn, “This way you are harming yourself.” I reply, “When they let me down, they lose my faith, and that is the biggest harm . . . for them.” I admit, perhaps unconsciously I am turning myself into an indifferent, apathetic fellow devoid of any trust or faith in humanity. Still, consciously, as far as I can, I try to keep the trust alive, at least until I am proven wrong by that individual. And then, no looking back.
But why so much pain? Why not build a Great Wall Of China around myself to protect myself from all further mental, emotional and psychological injuries? Simply because I do not want any honest and genuine people, who really truly require my service, to suffer for the faults that they did not commit.
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