This post is about an unusal incident that happened to me on the train yesterday. I've been travelling by the trains now for 7 years. But I've never witnessed what I did yesterday.
I was travelling by train to college in the morning. In Kodambakkam, an old man got on the train and sat on the seat opposite me. He wore a muslim skull cap. He was thin and very weak. He wore dark glasses that were too big for him and clothes that suggested that life was a struggle for him. It was clear that he had some vision problem.
A beggar got on in one the following stops. I've seen this beggar quite often on the trains. This beggar also a muslim, plays a stringed instrument and plays it well. He doesn't speak. He just plays a melodiuos tune and lets the music convince people to drop him some money.
The man opposite me instantly recognized the beggar and called to him. "Hassan! Hassan!" he said. It was quite obvious that the old beggar was taken aback. The man extended his greetings to the old beggar and enquired after him. It was nice to see. He then dropped a few coins in to the beggar's bowl. The beggar smiled and went on.
In one of the next stops a beggar woman and a girl got on. The girl performed some acrobatic stunts in front of us. The old man called after her and told her to stop. She didn't but he went on trying. He told the little girl that she shouldn't be doing this, that she should go to school and try to come up in life. The girl finally finsihed her act and came around with her plate to gather coins. He stopped the little girl when she came to him, looked in to her eyes, and repeated what he had said earlier. He also added that if she couldn't go to school she should atleast try the circus, there was atleast more dignity there. The girl looked a little worn by this. It was as if the little one knew the truth in what the old man said and the little eyes had the look of hurt that comes with the knowledge that there's nothing that can be done about it. The old man looked at the little one, reached in to his pocket, and dropped a few coins in to her plate.
I admire the old man's courage to say and do the things he did in front of everyone. How many of us would recongize and enquire after a beggar? How many of us would speak to the little ones who come begging? There is much courage in that. More than courage there is empathy.
If we are to come up as a great nation there are two qualities that we as a society would need to imbibe. One is tolerance and the other is empathy.
Bless you old man, wherever you are.