Thursday, February 11, 2010
I had to yank the shopping cart hard to untangle. Succeeding, my eyes met a fellow sitting on a near by bench at the entrance of the super market. I smiled.
A couple of steps later I hear again - "Maam... "
I turned my head.
"I AM HUNGRY."
How old is he? Fourteen or fifteen, may be. This young Afro-American boy, his face all bundled up in a black parka hood, is announcing - "I am hungry!" - As if I am his mom or auntie or a close neighbor.
I am startled. Yet I pause.
"May be when I get back". I answered. The boy nodded his head "Okay".
Believe me, I am quite good at ignoring these "spare a change?", "will work for food" kinda messages.
I used to see a woman sitting on a low wall of a church with all her possessions in a shopping cart. She wore decent clothes. Every Friday after grocery, on my way back home I would to see her - for quite a few months.
Some times I thought of stopping and talking to her. If I bought her a sandwich or give a box of crackers would she mind? - I thought. But I never did.
I grew up in Calcutta. I have seen all kinds of begging strategies.
Once, a lady - quite properly dressed, came to our house and asked to see the lady of the house. She told my mom her story so convincingly that we were mesmerized. Her husband had died recently from a stroke. Her only wage earning son, had a car accident and is in the hospital. She is new to this strange city and had no option other than going door to door for help. She wiped her glasses with the end of her shawl.
Ma gave her a robust donation.
We smirked and ridiculed Ma for how gullible she was and how easily she could be fooled.
"Well, then I pay for her superb acting"- She replied.
When all these beggar women, with a skeleton child on their hips cluster around our car, as we are stuck in the Park Street traffic jam - they stretch their palms for "a Paisa" (coin), I can easily roll the window up and direct the driver to remember to stop at the "Flury's" - the best baking shop in Calcutta
But today something happened. It was almost 3:40 pm and I have not had lunch either. My stomach was growling. The words echoed louder and louder in my head - " Maam..I am hungry, I am hungry."
As I was snaking through the aisles picking up stuff from my list, I was also unconsciously thinking of this boy.
Finally, I picked up a bagguette and a small cup of cream cheese and asked the cashier girl to bag it separately and stick a plastic spoon too.
I came out. The sliding door closed silently.
He was no where.
This is the first time I was refused by a beggar.