This is the first anecdote in the series “Tricks of trades” introduced in an earlier post. Part 1 describes the incident while Part 2 would be analyzing it.
On a cold winter night in Gurgaon around five years ago, my office cab stopped near the apartment I stayed in with friends. The driver passed me the register to put an entry for the trip. All this while, my eyes were fixated on a poor family sitting below the street lamp : two men, two women and five children out of which two were in their mothers’ laps; the children were crying and didn’t have any winter clothes to cover their body with. The family didn’t look like beggars though; they appeared to be villagers. I signed the register and got down the cab; the wind was quite chilly that December and I felt guilty wrapped in my oversized leather jacket which, friends now tell me, used to make me look like a goat in sheep’s wool.
As I walked towards the apartment, the elder amongst the two men (must have been around 35) asked me in broken Hindi whether I understand Marathi to which I replied in affirmative. He thanked Devi for that and then told me in Marathi that they were from a village in Nasik and that they were visiting a Devi’s temple when someone fooled them in train and took all their suitcases & money. A young one in his mother’s lap started yelling harder to which the man responded by shouting at his wife to keep the baby quite. I asked him whether they’ve had any food and learnt that the kind-hearted shopkeeper on the other side of the road gave them a packet of bread which, I suspected, must have been stale. Police just took their report, but didn’t help any further.
By this time I was feeling really sad for them and wondered with anger about the wicked ways of the world. These simpletons had come to visit a temple (the only form of tourism known to most of the Indian villagers) and someone was wily enough to put these men with women and little children in such a sorry state. On further enquiry, he told me that there’s a train tomorrow morning and he would forever be indebted to me if I could lend him 500 Rupees for the tickets. He had a lump in his throat as he said this, his eyes were watery and hands joined together. I put a hand on his shoulder to give him some comfort and nodded in agreement.
We both then walked towards the ATM. I was feeling quite proud of myself and magnanimous by now. I thought that I have lost count of how many thousands are there in my bank account, and what a great deal of difference just one of them would make to this bloke’s life. What good a man’s life is if it couldn’t help the ones in need: my conscience gladly told my mind to which a compassionate heart agreed heartily. I gave him 1000 Rupees to cover the tickets and buy some warm clothes and food for them. The man said that he doesn’t regret missing on the visit to temple as he met his God in me. I dismissed this foolish flattery with great disdain.
While on our way back from ATM to the place where his family was waiting, he noted down my address to which he would send the Money Order after reaching his village even before he drinks a drop of water. He was glad to meet a Marathi-manoos is such distress. I sort of scolded him for thinking that only a Marathi man would help him; I would have helped him even if he wasn’t Marathi (I really was getting too filmy by now). He asked the children to touch my feet when we reached there but I jumped back and then bid adieu to the family wishing them luck and instructing to not to trust anyone so easily now in the train.
"Abe badaa late ho gaya ! Kahaan fuss gaya tha saale. Aadhe ghante se wait kar rahen hain. Chal dinner karte hain fatafat. " one of my friends greeted me as I eneterd the flat.
"Kuch nahi yaar! Wo gaadi waala pahle Sector 7 le gayaa tha ; ladki thi saath me to uska last drop nahi ho sakta tha" I said in a resigned voice.
Some lewd comments followed about how that girl must have molested me throughout the trip; they blamed the winter for her high libido.
We sat down to have the dinner. Two of my friends started the routine bickering about the food which I interrupted with a lecture on how so many people die of hunger and that we should be grateful for having this food and a comfortable life.
"Mujhe lagta hain ek nahi 2-2 ladkiyan thi iske saath" was a very well received response.
Weeks past by and no Money order came. I was hurt. When I decided to give that guy the money, I didn’t have any intentions of getting it back. “He shouldn’t have promised to return the money while we were walking back from the ATM. I had never asked for it. Anyways, good that I helped the families reach home. Neki kar, dariya me daal” were my thoughts. I didn’t tell about the episode to anyone.
About six months later on a humid evening when I was taking a walk around my apartment, I heard a voice a few feet away: “Aapko Marathi samajhti hain kya saab?”