Friday, November 11, 2011

A Little Help Goes A Long Way

As Raghu sipped his ice tea, a beggar came and stood right in front of him, her palm outstretched. She had a melancholy expression on her face. A disturbed Raghu gaped at her while she stood there like a painting - motionless. Sumitra glanced at the beggar, and then at Raghu. For a moment she felt disgusted at the way they both looked - sad and melancholy. In another word, similar. Raghu felt the same feelings for the beggar the beggar felt for herself, she thought. Pity. Then she decided it was better to be amused at this comparison, than be disgusted with it. She ignored them both and kept sipping her ice tea, on the whole, unimpressed by the entire incident.

Meanwhile Raghu got up, and rummaged his backpockets for a few coins. He took out a few. They were either five-rupee coins or two-rupee ones. He was about to drop the two-rupee coin in the beggars 'katora', when Sumitra objected.
"Two rupees?" She said. "That is two much.. pun intended.." All this while, she stared at the beggars 'katora'. It had a few coins that she had gathered from other generous souls.

Raghu couldn't get the pun, of course. He felt rather annoyed with her money mindedness, but, to avoid an argument, he said "I don't have a one-rupee coin."
"Alright." Sumitra said, and sipped her tea, appearing appropriately disinterested, while Raghu dropped the two-rupee coin in the beggar's palm. The beggar had only begun to bless Raghu when Sumitra's hand leapt forward and took a rupee coin out of the katora.

"Sumi! What was that?" Raghu shouted. "Keep that rupee coin back, now!"
The beggar, Sumitra saw, from a corner of her eye, was too perplexed to talk. "Alright, Rags. I was going to keep it back anyway. I thought you wanted to give, only a rupee."
"You are heartless!" Raghu said, in a voice heavy with scorn.
"Right." she said, as if he'd made an obvious remark on the weather and kept the coin back. The beggar went away without giving a blessing, perhaps, thought Raghu, to avoid losing more coins.

Throughout the next half hour, Raghu didn't speak to Sumitra. They had always had their share of arguments. Sumitra was the same. Sarcastic and cynical. Raghu found it rude. He was also disgusted with the way she was outspoken about drinking and non-veg food. But they remained friends because they found no other way of ending their arguments. He especially hated it when Sumitra slipped into her "You are so naive" mood. That was all she said. She had to disagree with every other act of kindness he did.

"Should I drop you somewhere?" Sumitra asked and took out fifteen rupees from her wallet.
"Keep the money with you. And no, I will go on my own."
Sumitra kept quiet for a moment then said "Take the money, at least."
"So that you can take it back?" Raghu said, with a wicked smile, satisfied he could turn sarcasm against her.
"Look, if you shout the way you did half an hour back, I will drop it back in your ka... pocket." Sumitra replied.
Raghu was aghast. You couldn't keep up with a sarcastic girl, he thought. "No thanks." He said and walked away to the cash counter. The man at the counter smiled with the satisfaction of a job well done.

After a brief goodbye, Raghu went away to the bus stop to catch a bus back home. As soon as he had left the tea shop, he forgot all about the episode.

The bus got really crowded a few stops from where Raghu had boarded it. There were a lot of people jostling and pushing each other for space. There was a woman too, holding a child, not more than a year in age. Raghu felt strange. Of all the men in the bus none would actually get up and offer her a seat. And the women, were perhaps all like Sumi too, he thought. Heartless. Raghu got up from his seat. He knew what Sumi would feel. He shouldn't have given up his seat like this. But Raghu did what he felt was right. Sumi would have laughed. Not a natural laugh, which he hadn't heard from her in their five years of college, anyway, but a smirk. Sometimes she just smiled. And upon being asked why she thought it appropriate to smile like that, she explained, "I was being sarcastic."

"Oh my God! Can this girl ever, ever, think out of her sarcastic box?" Raghu would lament mockingly. Sumi only smiled more. She was once very kind, he thought, to explain him that she did not trust these people he called 'poor'. Whether in terms of money or ability. For example, beggars could, instead, do some work and earn more than they earned on the streets, and some self respect. However, she had said immediately, "I would excuse them if they begged in a Mumbai local train. They would get more than anything they would get on the streets, here."

Raghu thought, till some time back that only the rich ever spoke like this. But he was surprised to discover that Sumi herself was a girl of limited means. Not that she came from a poor family, but decided to spend little on anything she did not need. Girls were a mystery, anyway. "Why don't you trust them? What wrong could they do to you?" Sumi only said "It is complicated. You will know some day." Raghu only dismissed that as her way of avoiding arguments.

The woman had now occupied his seat, her child on her lap. Raghu felt proud of his decision, he was happy he did the right thing. The child, happily playing in his mother's lap made Raghu glow with elation. A few stops later, even before Raghu had to get down, the woman got up from her seat and began struggling forward. "Life is really difficult for these women." Raghu thought. But he could not move, the bus was jam packed. She dragged herself, forcing her way ahead, she had to rub against all the people to get past. She finally pushed past Raghu and a few other people to get down at her destined stop. She was in a hurry. Raghu felt a little more frustrated with the attitude of 'the crowd' who wouldn't give a helpless woman a decent space to move. But on the whole, he was satisfied because the woman got to her destination comfortably, otherwise.

Moments later, however, Raghu felt a pang of some strange feeling he couldn't explain. Something was definitely amiss. He inserted his hand in his back pocket. His wallet was gone.

It was little consolation to him that half a dozen other men felt the same. "Stop the bus!" Someone shouted. "Stop the bus!" More people shouted behind him. "Someone picked our purses." Someone else shouted too.

In a state of shock, Raghu reeled around to look at all the men who had lost their wallets. And all of a sudden, like a downpour, realization dawned on him. All the men the woman had pushed past, had lost their wallets.

As he left the bus to get back home, devoid of the few hundred rupees he had earned after slogging a month, his thoughts spun back to Sumi. "She was right." he thought. She did not trust many people.

That night he wrote back to Sumi in a text message, although his balance dwindled. They always texted each other, no matter what the occasion.

U wer rite. U shouldnt trust any1.

Since Sumi had a post paid plan, she was always able to reply back to him. Something he appreciated, out of a few things appreciable about her.

He had a reply.

What happened?

Genuine, he knew. There was no hint of mockery in it. In as small a text message as possible he told her what happened on the bus.

Oh no! :( Did you lose much, rags?

Raghu typed back.

A few 100 rs and my naivete.


Nil said...

Good One!!

Liked it!! But end of this story could be different :)

Quaintzy Patchez said...

Thanks nil :)

What kind of "different" though ;)

Mehak said...

i like the end as it is :)

Quaintzy Patchez said...

Thanks Mehak :) :)

you read my scrap finally lols :p

Void said...

But well, its always easy to see the horns, the difficult part is to find the gold.. and like any old time gold digger will tell u, to get to a nugget of it, u will have to move mounds of dirt.

Quaintzy Patchez said...


Point noted :)

zahid said...

Half a dozen things i learnt from the story:

1. Never trust people your friends don't trust.

2. To avoid a nasty argument it is better to have two one rupee coins rather than a two rupee in your pocket.

3. There is a bit of female cliche in everyone.

4. post paid connection is good as long as you have firewall for SMS texting.

5. It is better to be assassinated than lose a purse with your hard earned money in exchange for a good deed.

6. The spelling of 'naivete'.

A trivia now:

Do beggars buy the 'kathora' they carry with the money they earn from begging or do they brush by people in a bus and steal their keychains and then re-cast the iron into a 'kathora'?

Okay Enough of the blabber -
It was a fantastic read patchez.


Quaintzy Patchez said...

Zed I'm glad you are becoming more sarcastic by the day and further more by the night (since you wrote this at night?)

and btw, its amazing how u learned so much from this story.. somethng even i didnt learn =|


kidding :)

thanks for commenting :)

vijay said...

good one... i hope the englightement was worth the money he lost.

manisha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Quaintzy Patchez said...

Hey vm, howdy buddy?

Well enlightenment is always worth the money u lose to get it.. if you get the enlightenment that is :D

Thanks! But i'll have to do something about this comment.. tera email address hai ismein.

Anonymous said...

nice work..I like your narrative style...IT ppl are hardly nice to see something diff...


manisha said...

wow, i liked it! esp the sarcasm of the girl...the strong indifference!

loved the whole narration and especially the dialogues:) and the pun in "two"....cheers..
nw delete it:D u din add me!

Quaintzy Patchez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quaintzy Patchez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quaintzy Patchez said...


Thanks!! :) Glad you liked it. keep visiting :) :)

@Manisha.. awritie!! btw I did add you!! =(

AbbY said...

Well Written post,
dazed with your wisdom at this age.

Quaintzy Patchez said...

Thanks AbbY! Though the age thing is a bit.. well, never mind ;)

Keep coming and posting your valuable comments!