A Sweet Defeat
This is when I was going back to college from home after a long stay. I went to the railway station for my train and since I reached there well before time (thanx to my dad and his nagging to always be on time), I had nothing to do but wait. I sent my driver back since there was little reason for him to stay back as there was still some two hours before the train would arrive. I was not going back anyway. After sending him back, I was all by myself. My mood was pretty bad from all the waiting and the fact that I had to get back to college and the same old boring life after a long vacation at home.
I was loitering around the platform noticing people and reading up random boards and hoardings. The railway station is always a busy place and the cacophony of all sorts of noises was getting on my nerves. It was crowded as hell and it seemed like all the people of the world had teleported to that particular platform. I was looking for a place to settle down and relax but it was becoming kind of impossible. Suddenly I felt someone pulling my shirt from below and I jumped up in horror. I saw a little girl who could hardly pass for a five year old. She looked like she had not showered for a very long time and her clothes did not speak too well either for she was dressed in what could hardly be called a frock since little was left of it except for rags. Her hair was as messed up as it could be and she was pulling my shirt in slow rhythmic and tired involuntary motions. In short, she was a beggar.
At first I could not understand what she was saying or wanted. I bent down and heard her say “Give me some money”.
I was pretty annoyed already and in no mood to do some charity. I brushed her hands off my shirt and moved ahead for begging happens a lot in India and this was no exception. She followed me for sometime requesting and nagging but the station was pretty crowded and she soon lost track of me.
Finally after what seemed like a lifetime, I got a place to sit down. I kept my bag down near my feet and sat comfortably. I was sitting and finishing up the last chapter of my book when a fat aunty was trying to squeeze into the half inch space that was left on the bench. Now sometimes, decency takes the better of you and you somehow rediscover the patience within you. I said nothing but smiled at her trying to convey the message that even her lipstick would not fit where she was trying to confidently fit in. After trying for sometime, with an embarrassed smile on her face, she went away hunting for a new place to sit.
After this episode, I got back to finishing my book. I still had some 50 pages to read and almost an hour to kill before my train would arrive. I felt that familiar pulling on my shirt and I cursed my stars. Neither did I look very rich nor did I look like I had a heart of gold. I looked up and saw the same girl whom I had met some twenty minutes before when she asked me for some money.
She said,”Please give me some money.”
I asked, “Don’t you go to school ?” I very well knew that her parents could not afford her going to school in a thousand lifetimes provided she had a set of parents.
She said,”I do not have enough money to study. I am hungry and want something to eat right now.” That pretty much confirmed that she was all by herself and that softened me a little bit and I started taking her a little more seriously but still not serious enough to part with my money.
I said, “I will give you money only if you do what I ask you to next.” She readily agreed with a glitter of hope in her eyes.
I said,”I want you to recite all the alphabets correctly right from A to Z.” I guess the devil had gotten inside me for she had just confirmed that she had never even seen a school let alone attend it and the very look of her suggested that she would never be able to complete this task. This request was more out of sarcasm and mockery than anything else for I just wanted to have some fun before my train would come.
She looked hopeless and I could already feel like I had gotten the better of her. All of a sudden something happened that completely surprised me to the very core.
She started, ” A for Apple, B for Ball, C for Cat……..” She reached Z for Zebra within the next five minutes without fumbling or getting confused. She was as confident as she could be and she recited the whole English alphabets in a synchronous tune.
I sat there without saying a word. I had an expression of utter disbelief and awe and somehow realized how stupid I was being all this while.
Then in the very next moment, like she has already not insulted me enough, she started with numbers. Slowly and steadily she finished all the numbers from 1 to 100 without stopping except for breathing. Finally she completed and stood there waiting to be rewarded. She was pretty calm and it seemed like she had done nothing extraordinary at all.
I asked her,”Where did you learn this from?”
She replied that it was all by herself.
I took out my wallet and gave her a 100 rupee note. She could not believe her eyes and I could clearly see that innocent grin on her face. She thanked me a thousand times and left from there hopping and jumping to a regional tune that she was humming.
For the first time in my life, I felt so convinced that someone had proved her worth so clearly and evidently. It was a sweet defeat after all.