THE LIFE OF A BEGGAR

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By: Dr Dhrubajyot Bora

Bhuban was just leaning against the rusty railings of the foot path of the main street of the town. His eyes were half closed, mind wandering, and a reflection of ultimate hopelessness and irritation was clearly evident on his face. There was a stained piece of cloth in front of him (which he often used to wipe off his sweat beads from his face); on which there lay a few coins, a few notes of ten rupees. A few yards away, a blind beggar, wearing dark goggles, was singing a popular song, simultaneously playing with his tukari, drawing an excited crowd into mesmerisation. His wife had just accompanied him. The faces of the surrounding people were seen satisfied even in the hot July afternoon! But Bhuban felt secluded. He didn’t like the couple as they were just intruders into his territory. For the last six months, he’d chosen this place as his place of begging. So many people used to move around this place, if one in every fifty threw something at him, he could collect a healthy sum of money towards evening. Moreover, for most of the time this place used to remain shady. There was a benevolent ice cream vendor who’d occasionally offered Bhuban succulent ice-cream bars for free. There was a pious businessman in a nearby shoe store, always with a chandan tilok on his broad forehead, who’d often offered him a fifty or hundred rupees note. This place was ideal for a beggar like Bhuban to end his day. But this couple had hampered his earning. They’d entered like a comet into his sky! Bhuban had faced hardshipsin his life. Before coming to this place, he’d given a try in front of a temple.

A few days later, he’d noticed that as his position was last but one in the row, he hardly got anything because most of the people while coming out of the temple unconsciously preferred the beggars sitting close to the exit. He’d to search the municipal dustbins for food in those days. After discovering his pitfalls, he’d abandoned that place. Then he’d chosen a place in front of a big commercial mall, thinking that those rich people going in and out of the mall would offer him something big. But he was wrong. He’d later realised that those people were the most miser that he’d ever seen. So one evening, he’d left that place out of frustration. On that night, as he was walking along the silence engulfed midnight town, he’d heard the blaring of a train, coming from the nearby station. He’d decided to go to another place on one of those trains, in search of a new future. He’d almost rushed to the station. When he’d reached there, he was tired, and decided to sit in a corner of the platform. But after sometime, a strange idea had struck his mind. He’d laid his old cloth in front of him, and waited for miracles to happen. And unbelievably, people piling around the platform started pouring coins, currency notes on to his cloth.

There he’d given up the idea of shifting to another place in search of a better future. But fate had been always against his life. One day, an irate railway police party came with their hard, polished wooden sticks, and bludgeoned all the beggars mercilessly and chased them out of the station, putting blame for all the mischievous events that had been happening for some time in and around the station. Bhuban too was flung out of the station. With a heavy heart, Bhuban again had started his searching for some suitable place to begin his living, and ultimately he’d discovered this place. But this blind couple had disappointed him. Bhuban stared at the thin piece of cloth lying in front of them being heaped up with coins and notes. He felt an unexplained anger and jealousy to them. Gradually the people around them lessened as the day light dimmed, and street lights glowed and the evening was set in. Bhuban folded his piece of cloth, tucked it under the waist band of his tattered trousers, and waited for the blind couple to depart. The woman eagerly folded their piece of cloth, and stowed it under her arm. Then they started walking along the foot path, with their hands intertwined. Bhuban got up at once, and followed them stealthily, keeping a safe distance from them.

At first they passed the petrol pump, then the town theatre hall, the evening bazaar, the intersection, the busy private hospital…… The woman was guiding the blind man walking through the busy rush of the evening. Bhuban kept on following them. Because of them his earning had dramatically dwindled these days. Bhuban assured himself that it wouldn’t be a sin to steal the money from them. He continued dragging his tired body behind them. Bhuban stopped when they’d entered under an over bridge and settled them against a large pillar of it. He kept a watchful eye on them from a distance, without their knowing. As midnight approached, the whole surrounding silenced in a strange way. Bhuban was waiting for the right moment. The street became deserted. Then he walked slowly towards the over -bridge. The place under the bridge was dark. He approached them slowly. They were sleeping peacefully; their bodies were curled up side by side. He stood a few yards away, and observed their chests moving with breathing. He noticed the bundle of cloth which was lying beside the woman’s neck, being securely held by her right hand. A SUV car drove past him just at that moment. Some unknown youths were singing out loudly from inside of the vehicle.

Perhaps they were returning to their rooms after enjoying late night party. Bhuban stopped, and gazed at the departing car. It slowed down near a municipal dustbin, and a hand hurled a bag into it. Perhaps some left over foods. They discard food because of tastelessness, and the beggars like Bhuban pick them up from the stinky dustbins to douse the fire of hunger. Bhuban stood stupefied. Would it make a big deal if he stole the money from this couple? How long would he be able to survive with that meagre sum of money? It didn’t actually matter how much anyone of them earn, the truth being that the social stigma would stick to them lifelong. In fact, they were like the brothers of same boat sailing through the rough sea called life. Would they ever be able to enjoy a life like those boys in the car? A ray of enlightenment cleared his soul of jealousy that he’d harboured to this couple. Bhuban left them, and painfully dragged his body to the state transport bus stop to find a night shelter, limping. His lower limb had resembled like a pair of sticks, being devoid of any strength, because of his childhood polio. Next day, Bhuban changed his place of begging

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