Thursday, April 1, 2010

Straight from the heart - Sympathy

Caution : This is first in the series of my writings, where humor will not be the central theme. But, this series is based on some events which I have witnessed in my life and they have been strong enough to jolt me and force me to recalibrate my set of values & Beliefs.

Location & Time - Somewhere in front of a Mall, in a busy Metro city, Year - 2004

Scene 1 -

It was one of those hot summer evenings in Northern India, when the Sun refuses to say quits, and the hot winds keep scorching the skin, well into the evening hours. However, I was not bothered by all this and was sitting under a tree waiting for my friend, who was going to join me for a round of Cold Beer and some Tet a Tet. Even the thought Beer was enough to take off the discomfort caused by sweat and dust. Feeling a little bit hungry and to looking for ways to pass some time, I strolled to the nearby McDonald and bought a Veg Pizza McPuff and started nibbling at it. Halfway through my cheese filled treat, I noticed a child of around 3-4 years, staring at me intently. After some hesitation he came near me and starting begging for money. Desensitized by several Magazine articles and movies, which depict children being forced into begging by emaciating/maiming them, I tried to shoo away the child and nonchalantly kept on biting the Hot Cheese Puff. Unlike his older siblings, who would have lost interest in me immediately and started looking for a softer/less emotionally matured target, this child kept on kept on looking at me for better part of 5 minutes, till I finished my Puff. Unperturbed, I got up threw the empty McDonald Wrapper on the ground and started walking away, scanning the scenery for some eye tonic in the form of Delhi Gals. As I looked behind to confirm that I hadn't left anything behind. I saw that little child was kneeling on the ground, holding the wrapper in his small hands and trying to scrape the crumbs sticking behind. As our eyes met, he got startled and shrunk a bit as if afraid. I on the other hand found myself fixated in one place unable to move or say anything. Within the next few seconds my mind was racing and a medley of emotions - guilt, anger at myself, pity, helplessness filled my heart.

Scene 2 -

Next thing was,I found myself standing at the McDonald takeaway counter and asked for a Veggie Surprise Burger, which I found would be sufficient for the little guy, who was smiling an innocent smile in anticipation of the food. I returned his shy smile and picked up the nicely wrapped warm bun and small ketchup pouch and handed it over to him. I turned back to clear the bill and found the attendant giving me a queer look. As I was paid the bill, through the corner of my eye, I noticed another child, around 8 years old, walked over with a haughty gait and in a single swing snatched away the burger from the younger one. I hurriedly finished of the transaction and quickly walked to the bully to recover the burger.
Filled with anger, I sternly held him by his hand and took back the burger. He was also eyeing me back angrily with his street hardened eyes but unable to do anything about it. As I glanced around for the younger child, the reality sank in. I was standing in an small ocean of children, all looking at me with anticipation, some of them wearing a pleading look and other scornfully looking at me. I found the younger child standing behind them. I wanted to end all this, so I quickly walked to him and gave him back the burger. Unlike the first time, he was very hesitant to take the burger from me. I noticed that the bully was standing just two paces behind me, looking at the younger child with as fiery eyes as a 10 year old can manage. I told the younger child not to be afraid and eat the burger. But, he simply was shaking with fear and afraid of the consequences, he wasn't even making any effort to unwrap the burger. I repeated my assurance to the child, but still he was too afraid to move. As I was figuring out what to do, there appeared a girl of around 8 years on the scene. The younger child voluntarily extended the burger to her, as if he was holding a ball of fire. Apprehensive that she also might be a bully, I asked her to return it. But, the younger child told me slowly that this girl was her sister. After she started feeding the burger to the younger child and eating some of it herself, I felt relieved and left the scene.

Scene - 3

My friend arrived soon after, and we both walked into a nearby posh watering hole to quench our thirsts by Chilled pints of Corona. Somehow, all the debate about smoothness of Corona over other Lagers was not able to remove the thoughts of the earlier episode from my mind. Halfway into some meaningless but interesting conversation, my friend inquired why I was appearing distant. I quickly brushed aside his thought and made conscious effort to focus on the Frosted tumbler filled with Golden-Amber colored manna. But, still I wasn't able to remove myself mentally from the sequence of events that occurred earlier in the evening. Even as I bade goodbye to my friend and rode my bike to my den, I kept on thinking- What would the bully do to the child? Did I do the right thing by intervening in their social hierarchy or did I end up making the matter worse? Should I have gone ahead and bought all those 10-12 children some food or would it have promoted this behavior even more and in turn would have worsened the problem?
As a third person, if someone would have come to me with all these questions, I would have definitely told him that he shouldn't have bought the young child any food in the first place. But, when faced with such situations where a child, who doesn't understand the dynamics of world and for whom overwhelming hunger drives most of actions, I guess, an undiscovered chunk in our heart comes to fore and makes us act in a way which would even surprise us at times.

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