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  • Writer's pictureSukankshi Jain

Gandhi's Talisman: Poorest of the Poor

A photo by Shavy Jain

Dear Reader,

How many times have you walked away from someone who is in need? I am not talking about your tangled affairs but in general. I can only speak for myself, but even if some of you can resonate, then I would consider this piece valuable.

I often subdue a sense of failure by continuing things that give me solace. Sometimes I travel but mostly I read. It gives me an escape into an alternate befitting perfect world that I wish to be a part of.

I am so much engrossed into the chaotic everyday hassle of my own, that when I see myself giving my all and others, all complaining, I just come up with generic phases that I think is out of a better understanding of the world but in reality somewhere reduce my responsibility as an individual.

I'll give you small and far-fetched phrases, 'F*CK everything, People are like that only' I use this the most while I have seen others using 'What the hell is the government doing' and ' Iss Desh ka Kuch Nahi ho Sakta' the most.

It was already six in the evening and my boss was expecting me to stay with the QA of my project and finish that one last JIRA task. I rushed into packing my things and with luggage in my hand, made the 'I am already late' face. I was going home, Agra, after a long time and had to catch the train from NDLS. I knew it would take me a minimum of 90 minutes to get auto from Sector 58, Noida with all the luggage. Well, it’s a struggle to get into the metro from Noida City Centre at peak hour and another one shows up after 6-7 mins. Well!! When you are already running late, time never fails to show its bitchy face.

I reached the station almost 15 mins before and the train was running late by 20 mins. I hadn't had dinner and your parents never stop reminding you of your appetite. I was looking for something where my skepticism would be minimum. I came across a food court, the place was quite lit and was quite crowded. I was looking at the menu when I was pushed by a fellow. A man covered in tattered pieces, almost blabbering to himself was standing in my place. I looked at him from bottom to top, barefoot, loose and torn off clothes, dreadlock hair, and his skin had black patches from not taking shower. People around me started scuffling and shooing him away. He walked away while talking to himself. Pity things that outrage us easily are walked over by such people. Watching him go, smiling half-heartedly, reminded me of someone's face. A person who has no relation with me but has always been in a room of my memory.

Back then as a child, I was in Gangtok with my parents for a short vacation. While my parents were sipping tea roadside, I was playing around with a biscuit in my hand. I was busy in my world, loaded with woolens and still shivering. While my Bournvita was getting normal enough to take a sip, I was controlling my younger sister to not get near the road. She ran past three-four shops, trying to slip her fingers from my hands. That's when I saw her. A lady lying on the footpath covered in a single blanket. She just had that square piece of cloth which wasn't enough to cover her properly. Seeing that barely covered old lady in the streets, shivering, I was dumbfounded. All I could do was stare at her. At that time I could not process that sudden rush of feelings, I just gave her one biscuit in my hand.

Though I am no fan of Gandhi, I do remember the Talisman, a saying from The Tale of two Gandhiji.“Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.”

Her face was the poorest I had seen but today, sitting at the station, waiting for my order I was baffled. That man has walked away from the line towards the dustbin. He started searching from a pile of thrown-away food and started taking bites. A street dog came along and started eating from the same plate as him. He did not shoo him away just like everyone else. Does that what hunger does to you? I thought, does it build up such strong compassion? The man was happy for finally finding food, I guess the dog was happy for sharing a meal with a human and everyone else was happy for the man did not come near them again. All of them could again mind their own business.

So what baffled me was which one of them was poorer, the lady or the man. As a child, I could give her my biscuit but as a grown-up, I couldn't buy him a plate. So when I talked about how we shed our responsibilities as an individual, it all starts at the basic level. We can all keep on watching/reading news and try blaming someone else for the failure in our system, but deep down we all are part of the same ecosystem we curse.

Mine is an example of a failed human, and yours? Did you throw the wrapper out of the moving bus? Or Did you share the "many times forwarded" WhatsApp message one more time without knowing the truth?



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