Sunday, March 16, 2008

a story for you... short but true

Today, in order to find a new place to do nothing, read my book, and watch the world go by, I settled on a shaded chair outside a little Indian café on the Temple Road.

I enjoyed the warmth of the sun as it half-set over the lush and still-misty Kangra Valley below Dharamsala.

Despite a steady trickle of walkers and drivers, the whole place seemed quite still.

There was an edge to the pleasant atmosphere all-the-same. The week-long uprising in Tibet had created an outpouring of heart-felt support and protest in these little streets too, high up in the foothills of the Himalayas, in this little town, on this little ridge – the crossroads of so many places and times.

A crippled beggar sitting on the opposite side of the road was shouting at passers-by and into this café. ‘Namaste! Hello Sir! Charity, please Sir!’.

I had observed him often during that week, pulling himself along. He was sitting on a hard cushion with wheels underneath somehow. He would let himself roll down the hil some distance. Then spend the next god-knows-how-long using one scabby hand and ankle to scrape his way back up. But not today.

He was in a heap, off his seat, looking exhausted and a bit the worst for wear.

He had never asked me for anything, either before or now. We just exchanged respectful eye contact and said hello.

I thought he might be hungry or thirsty so I asked the boys in the restaurant to discreetly send him over some veg fried rice with egg and a bottle of water. This request seemed to shock and bemuse. However, after some to-ing and fro-ing, both food and cripple were united at last.

Just then, the poor soul burst into song and the boy-waiter sang along as he returned to ‘our’ side of the road smiling.

I rejoiced in the simplicity of the moment and how both receiver and giver seemed to enjoy the exchange of meal for song…

A while later, I once again imagined myself in the beggar’s place and how he might conceivably be languishing over there in the heat, full of fried rice and egg needing the toilet. I quietly asked the owner how this guy could manage to relieve himself and whether maybe he would have to drag himself over the edge of the road and down the steep drop out of sight to do it.

The owner replied, quite unperturbed, ‘No. Not at all. He can walk… quite well. All he is really looking for is another joint to smoke’.

16.3.08 Dharamsala, India.

1 comment:

  1. view, meditation, action.
    view, openness, presence.
    bruno, road, begger.