“Son, can you please spare a rupee for an old woman?”
This happened yesterday, 5th of Aug, 2015.
I was walking on the road, engrossed in my cellphone. I’m sure that current generation will relate with this talent of mine to keep chatting on cellphone while crossing a busy road. So what if we go down under the wheels of an odd car? All the talents require some or the other sacrifice. I looked at the person. She was 80, if a day. Not a single hair was black. She had that pitiful look, which all these street side beggars acquire to earn a rupee. Begging is the most lucrative business, which requires no investment. You don’t have to dress to nines for that. I don’t have patience with young beggars, but the older generation is different. I locked my phone and looked at her. She immediately noticed my interest and started her sales spiel. “I haven’t eaten since yesterday. Please spare a rupee!… “
I looked at her face, lined with worry and age lines. It resembled the political map of Afghanistan in my long forgotten school Atlas. The persona behind this map may have had a similar history as of that war torn country. I asked her gently. “You don’t have a family?”
“No, son. I have a son and his wife, but they have left me on my own as I’m old now. They live across there.” She pointed across the road to some hutments.
I was furious. We all are always guilty of some misdemeanor or another, but we become righteous as Archangel Gabriel, when we see injustice done by someone else. I forgot my own inequities and was burning in self righteous anger. “Let me to your home. I want to teach a lesson to your son. I will teach him how to take care of his old mom, who wasted her entire life for his miserable upbringing!” I was seething.
“No, beta. Once you are gone, they will torture me.” she was pitiful.
“I’m a police inspector..” I lied. I always keep a crew cut and with my stern and grumpy face, I can safely masquerade as a cop. I flashed my Animal Welfare Officer card, which was expired in 2008, to her. The poor illiterate woman was horrified. People are always afraid of their protectors. I don’t blame either. The cops have their own cross to bear and usually it’s the poor, who are subjected to their frustration and bear the brunt. I immediately started acting as ACP Mohanlal in one of his movies. I regretted that I didn’t make myself an ACP. I was too late to promote myself. Anyway, an inspector was good enough for the venerable lady. I exuded all my charms, held her hands and smiled. “We are for your service, mother!” and all those cheesy dialogs. People were stopping to watch a police official talking to a beggar. I was emboldened. It always happens that we have just a sketch of a route, but we are surrounded and egged on by our peers and that sketch takes the form of a solid way.
As a police officer, I was allowed a little rudeness. It is one of the perks of the job. “Chala nigha. Kai baghtat? Drama ahe kai?” I screamed at the mob. (Please leave. What are you staring at? Is this some drama?) People dispersed. I held the hand of that woman and led her across the road. I imperiosly stopped the vehicles. I was in the role of a police officer. Everyone dutifully stopped. I have always noticed in my checkered life that it’s always the confidence, with which you command, which causes the multitude to obey. I put on my aviator sunglasses. It gave me a real cop look, with my grim expressions. I led the whining old woman across. She pawed at my back. I stopped. “Saheb. My son will kill me!” She whined.
“I am there to protect you, mother!”, I was in my elements. “I will get him arrested.” I didn’t have any clue if leaving one’s mother on the streets is a cognizable offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Who cares about these little details when one is out to improve the world. The Mother tugged at my shirt sleeve…
“Please give me some money, so that I can eat!”
I looked around at the crowd and dug out my wallet. I had 190 in notes, around 40 in change and multitude of cards. I deliberated, looked around and pulled out a hundred. “Take this, mother.” I looked around proudly, but there was no one. I had successfully scared my spectators away!
I left her at a nearby Vadapao stall and attacked at the hut she had marked. I knocked the door and a young girl in her early teens opened. She was aghast, when she saw me. A fair, tall, stern and brutish guy, whose eyes were hidden and who looked like an officer in his dark shirt. Eyes play a lot to speak about you. They are the reflection of your soul, as Bram Stoker once said. I asked, “Where’s your father?”
She vanished and was replaced by another woman. In her 30s, I guess. I’m a poor judge of age. “He died last year. What happened?” She was belligerent and didn’t care for my looks.
Attack is always the best defence. I attacked. “I met his mother. How can you leave her alone on streets?” People from the nearby hutments started to mob. “You know? You guys can go to jail?” I shouted. People started to get away when they realized that I’m an officer.
“What mother? His mother died 30 years ago!” the woman looked at me incredulously. “What are you talking about? You Policewallas don’t have anything better than torment us poor guys? My daughter is sick. Do your government ever think for paying for a sick daughter? ” she broke down.
I ran to find that rogue octogenarian. I failed. She vanished. I came back. I again scavenged my wallet and gave her 50.
I don’t know what pained me most! The fact that the old woman cheated me, or the truth that I was conned by another hut dweller!