Sitting on the pavement looking devastated and tired, he was feverish and hungry. Many people passed by him but no one wanted to give him a second glance. No one cared. Hair reddish and body covered in dust and sweat, rags covered his body. He was a son of the streets; a prince of the endless dirty turns that seemed to have stretch infinitely on earth. The roads which people crossed daily, the beggars who showed up every day but no one or nothing stopped even for a brief while.
Today, the young boy could not manage a morsel to feed his hungry and aching stomach. The cars with bright and shiny bodies passed by indifferently. Most of them had their glass windows up. Rich Sir’s and Madam’s occupied lavish seats inside.
The boy tried to knock on those glistening and shiny glass windows but no one even looked back in response. He extended his hand and pleaded to the rich people, “Haven’t eaten anything since morning. Please give me something!” He pleaded. These people simply did not have any heart. They treated him with their characteristic aloofness, his pleas falling on deaf ears.
His stomach ached and groaned reminding him that he still had something to satisfy his hunger. He looked all around him. At a far-away corner, he saw a dog feeding itself from the packets which people threw on the road.
He had heard about the cleanliness drive which the ministers of the country had started. He thanked the heavens that people did not care about the rules and still threw food on the roads. How would the beggars and rag pickers of the society survive without the gold which lay on the road? The young boy lifted his body and crawled to the spot looking at the food packets on the road. The dog looked up and stared at his face.
When he realised the boy’s real intention, it growled and bared his teeth at him trying to express strong refusal to share the food.
There seemed no difference between the rich people of the society and the dog. Both of them refused to share the basics of life with the underprivileged human beings around them.
Suddenly, the boy felt a hand on his shoulders. He turned around sharply and looked up at a gentleman with a pleasant face. The man looked down with fatherly love in his eyes.
The young boy was scared out of his wits. “What happened Sir?” He croaked the words out of his dry and parched mouth.
The man asked softly, “Are you hungry, my boy?”
The boy simply hung his head in shame and embarrassment.
“Sir! Sir! What are you thinking?” The students called loudly, bringing the teacher back to reality. “Nothing I was just wandering somewhere in the past,” replied the teacher.
“What about the past sir?” The students’ eyes filled with curiosity.
The teacher looked out of the window again.
The beggar boy finally mastered the courage to look up at the gentleman’s face and nod. The gentleman extended his hand, “Would you come with me to my home?”
The boy had looked up in wonder. Words were too powerless to express the emotions of the boy at the time. The rest just happened!
The gentleman did not have any child. He wanted to adopt the boy as his own son and educate him. The man’s wife was apprehensive about accepting a new member in the family, that too someone so clumsy picked up from the streets with no class, neither background. The young boy spent a sleepless night in a large room, hearing the arguments downstairs.
“You brought home a beggar! Have you lost it?” The wife screamed.
It scared the boy. But the gentleman stood firmly beside him, giving him everything that a boy of his age could have needed. The wife though, never gave up her attempts to kick the boy out of her house. She did not have any idea about his caste, creed and religion. How could she accept him just like that? What if the boy was a son of some robber or terrorist? What if he was a miscreant and harmed the family at some opportune moment?
He grew up nevertheless with education and logic, and joined a school in the capital with the job of a teacher. His angel mentor, the man who had sheltered him all those years ago was also a teacher himself. He wanted to go back and thank the person who changed his life.
He knocked on the door. No one answered it. He knocked again. An unfamiliar face opened the door.
“Who are you looking for?” She asked him.
The boy muttered some inaudible words.
“Oh I see. You seem to have come looking for the people who lived here earlier! Actually they have left this place after selling this house to us when the man of the house died…!” She babbled on.
“Any idea where they are now?” He croaked.
“No idea”, she snapped off with a grim expression on her face.
As he turned to leave, many thoughts crossed his mind. Where the hell was dada babu? How could he just leave like that, keeping him in oblivion? How could no one reach out to him to pass the message? Was he still such a no one without kith and kin? Where was his wife? Where was she now?
He walked aimlessly, and reached the market place. The same market place where dada babu had once picked him up, washed him, fed him, educated him. Tears filled his eyes.
Suddenly, from the corner of his eyes, he noticed a woman sitting on the street. She was clad in a white sari. Her hair was dishevelled and eyes were cast downwards. She looked like a distraught beggar, but something was amiss.
Slowly, he made his way through the crowd to reach the woman. He bent down and opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him as he stared at the face of the same woman who never looked at him with kindness. But today, all difference of class and status were lying scattered, hopelessly on the crowded street and no one cared to turn at them. The resourceless has only one recognition – that they are resourceless!
“They fooled me. Our relatives. I sold the house because they advised so. They ran away with all the money. I am too weak and uneducated to fight them. I had nowhere to go.” She wailed, burying herself on the same chest for which she had no mercy when it was feeble once upon a time.
“Would you keep teaching or you think you would find some time for lunch as well?” She screamed from the kitchen.
He was used to these screams. He heard them many times in the past, from the same voice. Just that, today the context had changed. It was perhaps the time to give back, what both of them owed to one important person of their lives.
The young man smiled and dispersed the students. He made his way to the kitchen. ”Madam”, as he still called her, was busy draining water from the rice. She smiled looking up at him.
Both of them had been to the streets, both of them were picked up with gifts of humane benevolence and both were loved such that it changed them forever.
How many lives are people willing to change?