The three - year old half naked child with dark colour, filthy body and shabby shirt with just one button to hold up the cloth on his body was roaming in the general compartment of Indian Rail. With his hands spread out to receive something in kind rather than the one-rupee coin, his eyes carried a different gleam while visiting every passenger in the hope of some mercy. I was watching him from the past ten minutes when he appeared from the passage near the toilet and embarked upon his MISSION ROTI.
Begging for the mercy he went to a young man who seemed too busy with his cellphone that I doubt if he had heard his voice behind the music playing in his ears and fingers moving fast on the touchpad. The poor child was accustomed to such apathetic hearts, so he moved forward. He approached a lady carrying about ten- months old baby. The baby was jumping in his mother's lap to grab the water bottle. And the mother was enjoying tossing the bottle from left to right and right to left. The little boy slyly put his finger in mouth wishing if he too had such a mother. The lady shook her head beckoning him not to stare but go away. The pauper- boy trudged his feet along with the dirty litters lying on the floor of the train. His malnutritioned body was clearly visible through the tattered shirt he was wearing. He had completed one row juxtaposed with the passengers but was still empty- handed.
Ironical, tens of people can't feed one single child. The poor boy still had hope and moved towards the next row. How much patience such vagabonds carry that amongst the thousands, one will definitely show mercy on them.
In the next row, a young girl almost of his age was munching uncle chips. When she saw the poor boy, she put her hand into the packet and took out two chips. When the boy came near, she gave him the chips. The boy smiled and the greetings came through eyes. But no later the mother of the girl caught hold of her and served her with two loud slaps. The lady shouted at the generous girl while she sobbed. The pauper-boy ran away and watched the show from a distance. He was feeling sorry for the girl and put the two chips in his mouth. It seemed his stomach felt happy after being fed with two crumbs.
When he walked to the third row, a family was having their home-made lunch. As they saw him begging, they shrunk into their seats with the food. The boy held no expressions and turned back. Suddenly another man sitting there called him. The man stood up and reached for his bag lying above him. He took out his lunch-box he carried from home. He opened the lunch-box and gave the only paratha to the boy. Perhaps he had already took his lunch and that last paratha was his leftover. The hungry boy seemed elated as if he had received a kilo of rasgullas. He humbly took the feed and rushed towards the passage. There emerged a few more children and a vagabond-woman carrying a young baby. The boy showed the paratha he earned today to his fellow friends. But suddenly the vagabond-woman snatched the paratha from him. She kept half with herself while distributed the remaining half amongst some odd five children including the boy. The poor boy hardly got a piece to be called paratha rather just a crumb. I was sitting in the fourth row and watched the vagabond- lady eating half of the paratha.
This is an everyday scene in the train, on the roadside. I have seen many beggars earlier too but what typical catched my attention this time?? Was it the little boy who blankly stood near the gate after winning just a crumb of the whole paratha ? or was it the kind girl who was slammed for feeding another child? or was it the man who gave away his leftover to the boy?
Each of us come across such beggars outside our home, while commuting to school or office, while visiting the temple, outside a vanity fair, at the bus stop or at the railway station. But we hardly stop to take a look on them. Though as a child we might have felt pity for these beggars just like the young girl in train but as we grow up, we become accustomed to their terminal miseries which becomes a show for granted. Perhaps this time I looked on that pauper-boy because I was not moving anywhere , neither was I caught up in any work but just watching the show from the fourth row.