Image courtesy: Andy Mcsweeney’s portraits of people in India
I have always been a generous person. Buying my friends lunch, treating my cousins and giving presents to people who had their birthday coming up or just to my best friends.
Giving was in my nature, but it seems that I didn’t know what it really entails. Here’s why I say so.
We live in the society of monetary peer-ship. While our elders would be alright with us lending money to friends, the same is shunned when it comes to the others on the streets.
Just the other day when I was out with my grandmother for grocery shopping, an incident occurred that chilled my heart.
As I sat in our hired auto, slurping away at a big kulfi, a boy holding a basket of jasmine flowers stretched it into the auto and ardently started pleading for me to buy some. He was joined by another friend of his with the same very insistent request.
The first boy repeated, as if on a look that he and his mother had not had a morsel to eat since 2 days. He pleads me to buy him something to eat, shoving the basket further into the auto. I could sense the urgency in his voice, but my conscience was very varied.
I said, “please go, I am sorry, I have nothing to give you right now”. The 2 boys eyed the kulfi in my hand and redoubled their efforts but reaffirming their hunger.
My grandmother came towards the auto and told them to move on. She scolded them for trying to scam me and told them to move away. The auto man threatened to hand them over to the police. The 2 boys looked at me and my grandmother with, what I am sure is veiled anger.
As the auto man started the vehicle, I heard the first boy say to his friend “Che. Look at them, so stingy. Can’t even offer what’s in their hand. Come on let’s go to the next street to try our luck”.
As we rode away, my grandmother made sure that I was unharmed though I felt in an internal turmoil. “Never let them get to you. Those on these streets have perfected lies that get them money out of pity. Those boys could have done much better for themselves if they had at least joined a school. What use are they to anyone roaming the streets armed with lies?”
I felt nauseated. What I lived in was a privileged, modest life, but yet when it came to the lower rungs of the society, the question of what is the truth to their story still lingers.
I could still remember the feel of the intense gaze from that boy on me. But even now, I can’t quite place whether it was the truth he told me or if it was all but a ruse. I can only find comfort imagining that he may someday have a better life to live.
Cause, after all, our reality is a grey area of moral conduct.