She was beautiful. My heart skipped a beat every time I saw her. I knew the time she passed by every day and I looked forward to each time I could have a glimpse of her. It’s just that I could not do anything about it.
I had problems bigger than love. I opened my tight fist to count the number of coins I had collected. I counted them again and again, yet every time they were short of 20p to get my only meal of the day.
Once again I felt the shame, the loss of respect I felt to go to someone and plead. It somehow reminded me of the first time when I was forced to beg, out of desperation.
I could feel my blood freeze in my veins, my heart pounding, my head feeling dizzy and my eyes losing focus. My mind turned into a coven of dark thoughts.
’Sir, do you have coins to spare, I am short of 20p for a meal’, I opened my hand to give the proof of the few precious pennies I had.
Without looking at me the seemingly rich man brushed aside his hand to tell me to get lost. It felt a gesture to ward off the bad luck that could follow him around.
It took me few hours to finally manage to somehow collect that 20p and buy myself the cheapest food I could get hold of. I started enjoying my food when a kind man stopped by my side and smiled at me.
‘You must be new in this city’, I enquired.
‘Not really, you seem very well informed about the locals.’ He asked.
For the past year, I had been sitting right in the middle of this town. It is a miracle that I survived the cold winter nights. I have witnessed people running all around me, to catch a bus, to reach the court in time, to open their shops and occasionally to visit the church.
As the latest trend, I have seen youngsters holding their mobiles and being oblivious of everything around. I have seen them taking selfies with every flower, bush, corner, street or even a rusted pillar. It is a shame I somehow can never get their attention.
I am a beggar. People avoid having an eye contact with me as if I have a disease that will pass on to them. They say leprosy is a disease of the past, I say begging is the new leprosy. Poverty is a sin of all sins, a curse of all curses, a mother of all sufferings.
While I crave to get some attention, the only time I get noticed is when mothers point at me to tell the children this is where they could end up if they did not study, if they did not stay clean and hygienic. Pregnant women, in particular, avoid looking at me, as if I will give the curse to the expected child. I am a centre of many pitiful stares that sometimes I wish I could be invisible.
Somehow, it is the day that passes quickly. It’s the night that takes its toll. I have lost a number of friends who slept homeless on a winter night and failed to get up in the frosted morning. In summers, it is hot during the day, yet the most frightening part is sitting all alone in thunder, lightning and rain. Perhaps, it’s the nature giving me a 3D effect of a horror movie, without a ticket. I must not complain.
If asked what could be the biggest happiness for me, or what matters utmost? I would say without delay it’s the comfort of the roof on my head, the luxury of warm food and a hot bath.
Yet, there I see, the most unhappy faces around me. None of them seems to struggle as much as I did, yet they look bizarre, tired, bored and unhappy. Why? I never dared to ask.
I was not a criminal or a murderer. Then why do people hate me so much? In an unseen change of circumstances, a sudden turn of the wheel of fortune I have now known the real circle of life. I have seen the good, the bad and now the ugly. Nothing surprises me anymore.
That is until that day. The handsome man stood there before me in his fine suit and sparkly shoes. I rubbed my eyes to check before I believed. He was still there, tall and proud, with a kind smile he awkwardly sat next to me and started sipping his tea.
For a moment I realised humanity had taken a giant leap. My prayers were answered and help was at my hand. Someone was there to show concern. There were not people mere calling to their religion on microphones, a kind caring soul was actually there to prove practically. It was a very special moment when his voice broke my spell.
‘I hope you can cast a vote for me, I was your local councillor recently too. This time around I am having good competition in the election. I am actually going around to ask for votes. You seem a nice chap. Will you be kind enough to vote for me?’
My dreams shattered like a broken glass, it’s cracking sound echoed all around me. In a moment of shock, my very precious morsel of food slipped from my hand and got covered in the mud like a mustard glaze.
I looked at my food with helplessness and then at the man who was now looking away, completely ignorant of what had just happened to me.