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Peering at the world through a straw : Part I

Posted by Shreyans Jain Tuesday, 8 January 2013 0 comments

It is often proclaimed that poverty and charity go hand in hand. Even today, when materialism has taken precedence over emotions, one may find it difficult to dispute the fact that virtues like compassion and benevolence still have the same charismatic effect in bridging the divide between the haves and the have-nots. 

This is the story of a peddler who used to sell handkerchief at traffic junctions and a gentleman whose conscience was stirred to utterance after his encounter with the peddler.

13 May, 2012: It was a hot dusty afternoon. The sun was shining brightly, making it difficult to withstand the scorching heat. To aggravate tension in the air, there was a massive traffic jam. Even snails would have crept faster. The culprit for this commotion was a bulldozer that had broken down at a major traffic junction. As the traffic became more and more unmanageable, some young men stepped out of their vehicles, gesticulating wildly at the traffic, rushing from all ends, trying their best to break the snarl. The sight of enraged people wrangling on road and abusing each other was only adding fuel to the fire.

Knock…knock…, a peddler knocked at the glass of a luxury car.
“Handkerchief…buy 4 pieces for Rs. 20 only”, he begged as the glass rolled down.
As usual, he was greeted with a grimace. The ‘gentleman’ inside the car didn’t even pretend to scrounge for change. Instead, he rebuked the peddler and increased the volume of the monotonous song that was being played inside his car. The peddler didn’t feel dejected. It was his business after all and to make his both ends meet, he could get himself reprimanded any number of times throughout the day. Even after being chided, he had the audacity to knock at the glass of the same vehicle again.

“Please purchase these handkerchief sir. They will protect you from this hostile weather”, he pleaded with folded hands.
“#$%@#!^&*...(invectives used). Get lost from here before I gag you with these handkerchief”, the ‘gentleman’ abused bitterly.

How pathetic a profession can be! Exposing oneself to public scorn every other minute…Gruesome!

The peddler, a downtrodden young lad did feel sad, however, he had no other alternative than to curse his destiny for his miserable plight, but still had a reason to cheer upon realisation of the fact that he was still in a better condition than many of his lineage who would indulge in undignified activities like manual scavenging, arduous labouring as cattle among cattle in the fields etc.

After hours of crawling, the luxury car and its owner finally crossed the junction and diffused among the ever increasing traffic. The peddler stood along the divider looking for more customers while the weather showed no improvement, with the sun showering its wrath all through the day.

“I should have purchased the handkerchief”, the gentleman muttered to himself while driving towards his destination, “after all he was a poor chap”, he continued.
One may feel tempted to think that the man was pricked by his inner conscience, unlike what he uttered next.
“Shedding a few pennies over these destitute is not going to wriggle them out of their impoverished conditions”, he told himself as he felt amused at his wisdom.
He may seem to be appropriate to some extent but if each one of us starts thinking in this manner, the day is not far when humanity would be stripped off virtues like love, compassion, benevolence, generosity et cetera. Any such thought that inculcates a feeling of hatred in oneself is as despicable as betraying one’s own conscience. One must shun such outrageous thoughts at the very grass root levels. 

One may appreciate the efforts of the government and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are trying their best to uplift the lower strata of the society but corruption is plaguing our society so badly that these schemes and donations seldom reach the actual beneficiaries. The outcome is that the chasm between the haves and the have-nots is widening and the condition of the latter is deteriorating from bad to worse. Consequently, though they have their names enrolled in the electoral lists, they have no access to the resources and are merely squatters.

The gentleman was in a state of dilemma and was constantly being haunted by a feeling of guilt of not having helped the poor.

Continue reading : Peering at the world through a straw : Part II


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