I was in the market with my young daughter of seven years old. I had just finished buying some groceries and cakes and chocolates from a bakery. The evening was pleasant and there was a gentle breeze. My daughter wished to sit near the fountain outside the store and watch the falling water. I moved towards a bench where a young boy was sitting already. But as I went near, my appraising eyes found him to be dirty with torn knickers and oversized T shirt. His hair on the head was unkempt having seen no wash for days together. He was bare legged with dirt and grime on his legs. As my daughter rushed towards the bench, I called her back and said “Let us sit in the other bench”
“Why mom? I would like to sit here. There is a boy there” she asked innocently.
Without elaborating I simply commanded her to come to the adjacent bench where I sat down. She turned and looked at the disappointed boy before coming to me with a crestfallen face. She did not speak to me for a while but kept turning often to look at the boy. The boy smiled back with his eyes sparkling in joy.
“What is wrong if we sit by his side? Is it because he is poor? I don’t understand you” she said in a tone tinged with sadness and anger.
“He is dirty and grimy. Look at his matted hair. He has never had wash for months, it seems. I do not want you to be near him”
She sat grumpily by my side and did not look at the fountain that she longed to see. Her face turned towards the boy frequently. The boy stood up suddenly and pulled out something from his pocket. I looked at him sideways. It was a wrist band, a friendship band, one that he got from somewhere with Raksha Bandhan ahead in a few days. He dangled it before her with a childlike smile that was inviting. My girl stood up and begged me to let her go and have the band.
It was then in a blinding flash of realization that I became aware of how peevish I have been and failing to see a beautiful child in that grubby outfit. I could no longer see the filth in his hair or dress. His smile looked angelic to me. I remonstrated myself at my superciliousness. I told my daughter to her great surprise “Why not? Go to him and have the band tied around your wrist”
She jumped in joy and was in the next moment with him. The boy gingerly tied the band without touching her with both of them watching me carefully. I told my daughter “Give him your hand and a warm shake and bring him here to me”. They both came to me running with their hands held together. I could see the happiness writ large on their faces. They then around the circular fountain
I handed her a packet of chocolates asking her to give him. The ugly boy no longer seemed so and I could see the beauty that was not initially visible. A guileless warm boy from humble circumstances spread cheer round him. Soon I was lost in thoughts of my younger days in a large family with my parents struggling always to make both ends meet. Life is often like that. Where we are born or how we are born is God’s gift to us. We may be born in a rich or poor family or possess a charming or ugly face but these are things over which we have little control. But being like that little boy exuding warmth of spirit and joy despite the poor circumstances is within our reach. There was no trace of envy in the urchin’s eyes save the stoical reconciliation to his destiny. My girl too taught me a big lesson that day that real beauty lies not in outward apparel or appearance but one has to look deeper to see the inner beauty. A lame man guiding a blind across the road is far more acceptable than a well attired dude driving the car and hooting at the slow pedestrians in sheer petulance. If we care to linger and see, we can perceive behind the façade of seeming ugliness, an inner beauty of rare charm.