by KParthasarathi 04 Sep 2008
I see the old beggar woman sitting at the same place in the bazaar very close to my house. She never changed her place but in the evenings moved to the opposite side of the road to escape the Sun’s rays. I don’t know why-but my eyes look for her crouched figure whenever I pass that way. She may be around seventy but looked much older for her age. An emaciated and shrunk figure she had unkempt hair that had never seen oil for ages. There was a slight pucker in her lips suggestive of a smile but it otherwise revealed no emotion.
She sat on a torn mat with a tattered bed sheet on it. She was a leper with her dimmed vision and eaten away fingers. I used to wonder where she lived and who brought her safely to the corner. She raised her head whenever she heard the approaching footsteps but never made a plea for alms. There was however a dignified deportment about her even in her pitiable state. I have always found natural dignity is not associated with one’s station in life or the by the apparel worn. Even a beggar can look dignified while a rich man can be indecorous in manner. In the news paper spread before her the people flung the coins that she gathered with her trembling fingers once a while to put them in a Dalda tin.
One day there was a heavy drizzle and I saw her drenched completely but she made no attempt to move away to a shelter. The next day I gave her a big sized old umbrella that was lying unused for her to protect from the rain and scorching sun. She did not thank me except raising her head towards my direction and letting out what seemed a smile. I dropped invariably a coin whenever I passed through that place. I suspect she had an uncanny knack of identifying me from my footsteps as she always raised her head as a form of salutation. God evidently gave keener faculties to compensate for those lost.
I asked my wife that day whether she can give one or two of her used saris to be given to the beggar woman.”Why one or two? Take these half a dozen saris and give her. If you need more, I have a huge bundle that I have been thinking of to give a poor home.”The next day I took four saris with me on my way to the bank to be given to that woman. Surprisingly she was not there. I could not find her in the succeeding two or three days also. A vague fear that she might have fallen sick or got involved in an accident while crossing the busy road took over me. I could check with none and my ego wouldn’t permit me to check with the small tea shop nearby.
I was relieved when I saw her at the same place four days later. I went back home much to my wife’s surprise and amusement to collect the four saris. When I told the beggar woman that I was looking for her, she replied she fell sick after the drenching in the rain. When I proffered the packet telling that there are four saris, she immediately said”Sami (Sir), I don’t need more than two. I have no hut. I sleep on platform. This bag contains all my earthly possessions. I cannot carry more weight. One spare would be more than adequate.”
When I was hesitating, she said “There is a young woman sitting a little yonder. She is an orphan after her mother another beggar passed away. She has no clothes to conceal her shame. She is troubled by the other beggars when it gets dark and seeks my protection. I remain awake in the nights and shout them away almost daily. Give her these two saris and help her by finding immediately a secure home for her. I would be indebted for life to you, Raja.”
My eyes became moist at the generous heart within this frail and destitute woman who is more concerned about a pitiable woman than herself.”What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal” I found her taller and richer than me as I learnt in that single incident that the value of a person resides in what he/she gives and not in what he/she is capable of receiving. I was reminded of the famous quote.”A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”