January 22, 2011

Pain, suddenly

Four of us at dinner at a Bombay institution, one of the city's oldest Chinese restaurants, last night. As it turns out, I haven't been there since I was about 13 or 14, which by my calculations comes to, let's see, hmm, about 67 years.

Anyway. When we were done, we emerged from the restaurant and two of us walked over to the nearby paanwala to get, you guessed it, a paan. The other two, a friend and I, stood chatting on the pavement.

A small girl approached and asked for money. Also asking us for money were an ancient man sitting on the pavement behind us, and an equally ancient woman sitting on the pavement a few feet on the other side of us. After a few moments during which the girl kept asking, I fished in my pockets. No coins. I pulled out my wallet. Found a Rs 5 note. Gave it to her.

She ran off to the corner, and almost immediately two or three other girls emerged from there, also asking for money. Behind me, the old man grumbled. "You gave her money, you didn't give me any!" Then the first girl returned. With a smile, she said, "The note is torn!"

I took it back. It was indeed badly torn. Looked in my wallet again, no more Rs 5 notes. I pulled out a Rs 10 note and gave it to her.

The old man grumbled some more. The other girls asked again for money. My friend spoke to them, asking their names and where they were from.

Our other two friends came back with their paan. We turned to walk away, homeward bound.

Suddenly I felt an excruciating pain on the back of my knee. I turned around, hobbling for a few seconds. The old man had hit me with a long stick, the size and thickness of a police lathi.

"You didn't give me anything!" he shouted at me.

I just stood there, still in pain, looking at him.

7 comments:

Surya said...

poor guy(both you and the old man), so why din't you give him anything?

Anonymous said...

It was a stroke of love. You ignored the child of the yesteryear while pandering to the aged of the morrow. How could you be so loving on the one hand and so callous on the other? A gentle reminder of your dissonance.

Pareshaan said...

Why no litt fest for you boss?
Had you been in Jaipur instead you would have avoided the knock.

Girish Shahane said...

I suspect the note you gave her was fine, and she slipped you an old torn note she possessed. And got an extra five rupees in the bargain.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Of love and callousness, I can make no comment. It's the way it turned out.

Pareshaan, I will admit that going to Jaipur would have been a terrific way to avoid the lathi-blow ... but no, I had other travel plans (Chhattisgarh). Though as it turns out we had to cancel those at the last minute.

Girish, I did think of that. But odd as it may seem, I believe it was my note (I quickly checked something else I had noted by chance on the note, as she handed it back).

Anonymous said...

That's the way it turned out. An easy out, that's what. Think hard, what was it that made you give to the bambini and not the codger or the codgeress?

Veeresh Malik said...

maybe he was an elderly parsee landlord from one of the flophouses now gone awry?