Friday, February 04, 2011

Could you spare a moment for me?

Raghu gazed at the sea of people in the bus stand with a big smile on his face. With wide open eyes, he asked his father "Look around at all these people - each of them has a different story. Some happy, some sad and some filled with hope. Everyone's going somewhere to meet someone else or do something. None of them know each other, but all their lives intersect in this one place at this one time. Isn't it all fascinating?" Sunil murmured something that sounded like a yes but it was obvious he was not listening to his twelve year old son. He was too busy finding out where the Bangalore bus was standing and wished Raghu would keep quiet. Sunil went around enquiring about the bus and left Raghu lost in his thought. Raghu remembered with pride an incident exactly three months ago in the same place.

It was a rainy night and there was much more chaos that day. He had fallen behind his family to buy a chocolate. He was quickly running to catch up with his family when he saw a middle aged man walk to him. This man was decently dressed, clean-shaved, but he looked distraught. He seemed confused and was looking around for help, but nobody stopped to listen to him. He tapped Raghu on his shoulder and said, "Could you spare a moment for me?" Instinctively, Raghu wanted to run away from him. But something held him back and he nodded back at him.

The man seemed incoherent and had tears in his eyes. Between gasps of breath, he told Raghu how he had been pickpocketed earlier that day. On his way to the bus stand, the auto driver took him in a wrong route and was joined by two of the auto driver's friends. They took away his watch, wallet and chain. Raghu was skeptical as he surveyed this man. He had a decent shirt, pant and shoes on but no watch or chain. "Should I believe him? Oh, he is going to ask me for money," Raghu thought to himself, rolling his eyes in his mind.

The man continued his story and told Raghu how his sister had died in Trichy that day and he wanted to go for the funeral . Because of this auto incident, he had reached the bus stand late and missed his bus. Now he did not have money to buy new tickets. By now, the tears were rolling down like he was standing under a shower. He looked away from the kid to hide his moist eyes. "Why does it all have to happen to me?" he seemed to ask himself.

Raghu wanted to help him, but was not sure. "How much money do you want?" he asked the man. The man was surprised that a kid wanted to help him. "I don't want your money, son. I just wanted to share my story with someone. Now I feel a little better. Thanks," he said and began walking away. "But how will you go to Trichy?" Raghu shouted towards him. The man shrugged his shoulders and said "I might be having a bad day but I will not become a beggar".

Raghu dug into his pocket and pulled out the 90 rupees inside. His father would understand why one Dairy Milk cost him 100 rupees. He walked over to the man and said "This is my gift to you. Hope your sister rests in peace." The man pushed Raghu's hand away in obvious embarrassment, but Raghu put the money in the man's pocket and ran away to ensure he did not return it. A slow smile crept over the man's face as he looked at the 90 rupees in his hand.

Raghu was very proud of himself for having been a good Samaritan to an unknown man. With pride, he recited the story to his parents. His mother had looked at Sunil and told him to learn from this little kid. Raghu summarized it by telling his parents "Not everyone is a cheat. Because of the cheats around, some people who really need help get mistaken for cheats. It is always better to give the benefit of doubt to the one in trouble."

Now here he was, three months later, at the same place that had brought him so much pride. He began looking around for his father when he felt a tap on his shoulder. That familiar voice said "Could you spare a moment for me?"

Thursday, February 03, 2011

In the End...

They looked into the dark tunnel and saw the light coming closer. As the distant sound slowly grew louder, the announcement boomed, "Please mind the gap". Right on cue, they stepped closer to each other and held hands. She saw the sadness in his eyes behind that fake smile - a sadness that grew more and more with the approaching train.

The train rolled to a halt in front of them, but neither looked at it. With artificial smiles on their faces, they gazed at each other for an eternity. She was the first one with the courage to walk away towards the train. As she entered the compartment, she knew this was over. Not wanting to look back, she headed straight inside leaving the teary-eyed man behind.

"Please stand clear of the door," said an uncaring voice as she finally looked out from the train. The door had just begun to close when it happened. It was the moment that changed everything. With sudden realization, they both ran towards the door. The door did not care and continued to close. He stretched his hand out, jumped towards the train and managed to hold her hand just in time before the doors closed and the train sped away.

She cried and screamed as the other passengers in the train watched in horror. But, there was a satisfied smile on his face as he looked at the five little souvenirs in his hand. He now had something to remember her by.