Friday, December 28, 2007

An encounter

I turned around in my chair and waited in that position for a few moments, I didn’t hear the call again. Was it just my imagination or did someone really call out from outside. I decided to walk to the door.

There was someone outside the door, no doubt about it. I headed close to the door & bent down slightly to take a clear look at the person outside. This time I saw him clearly. And immediately my heart started to race. As I finally reached the door, the person outside stood still, his glistening & cold eyes only staring at me. He had a few days old stubble & his hair although dirty seemed to be in its place. I noticed he wasn’t wearing any footwear. His shirt was untidily tucked in to his pants only partly, the rest just hung down. The full sleeved shirt’s sleeves were rolled up a bit.

I paused, looked at him & let the entire thing register. I still hadn’t opened the door. My fingers were on the latch but I was staring at him. He continued to stare back. What I still remember is how his eyes looked. Shiny and cold. I only managed to blurt out “yes”. “Do you remember me”, he asked pointing all the fingers of his right hand at his chest. I paused & remember saying “yes”. “Come out then”, he said. I took a moment & thought about it. Finally I opened the door but didn’t get out.

He called me by my brother’s name. I thought may be it was the state he was in that made him call me by my brother’s name. Or could be that he just thought that my name was indeed that. What I continued to be absolutely amazed was how he could speak such fluent English. No, that was not what I was really amazed about. Yes he could speak good fluent English but no that was not what I was amazed about. I was amazed about the fact that someone who could speak such good English had got himself into a position like that. Yeah that was what I was amazed about.

“Could you give me 100 rupees please, I need to get home”, he said. His voice sounded tired, sounded like he desperately needed it.

I initially struggled with my words. Finally I said, “No I don’t have that money right now”. The fact was I truly didn’t have that much on me at that moment, but even if I did I think I would have told him I didn’t .

“Please, I need that money. Look at my state…..I don’t even have my foot wear”. He pleaded.

I felt very sad. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Could life be so cruel to someone. I remembered this very same person outside a house. He was on his bike & on the other side of the gate, stood a girl. He looked so much better then. His skin tone was white, that is what I can think of best describing it. So white that if he was out in the sun for a while his cheeks would turn pink. But now that complexion had completely disappeared. It had turned darkish brown.

“What did you do with the money you got yesterday”, I asked him. Mom had given him 100 rupees the day before when he came by.

He was taken aback by that question. He shook his head, looked down, then looked up at me again & said, “um….ah…..I spent that money on a call”.

I suppose he knew his explanation didn’t come across very convincing. “I am sorry I said, I don’t have any money right now”

“Please”, he said & got his hands together as if he were praying. Only, here he was begging, pleading.

“I will fall at your feet if you tell me to”, he said.

That was when I got a whiff of liquor smell from him. With that whatever little doubts I had was confirmed. I persisted with my stand. I told him I can’t give him any money because I didn’t have any.

“Please don’t come here” I told him. I remembered mom telling me the day before how scared she felt when she saw him at our gate. I didn’t give that a lot of importance then but when I saw him first some time back or even then when I was facing him & trying to get him to leave, I knew very well that I was scared inside. I later realized that such a feeling is possible & completely fair when you see the other person so cold, so emotion less. Like dying.

“I will not come again. Give me the money & I will not come again”, he said.

I repeated what I had told him all through. “I don’t have any money right now, I can’t help you”. That seemed to have clinched it. He turned & walked. I continued to look at him until his sight was blocked by the Tata Sierra parked in front of our gate.

Moments later sitting at my desk & looking down at the Balance Sheet & Income Statement that I was trying to solve for my Management Accounting assignment, I couldn’t help but again think back at those good old days this person I just met outside my door had seen. I recollected my cousin telling me that when he was visiting them one summer he would bathe four to five times a day with cold water at a time when the small town where my cousins come from had a water shortage. I remembered both my cousin & I smiling after he told me that.

I recollected mom telling me the day before, “That’s why one’s company of friends should be good”. Then later she had added, “Its drugs”. The recent case of a former model found on the road side creating headline news flashed to my mind. There they said it was the modeling world that could do it to you.

I wondered what had done it to this person.


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