Friday, May 20, 2011

Beggars Are Also Choosers...

Life''s little moments never cease to amaze me in their capacity to remind and instruct. What follows is a tale of three beggars with whom I interacted today.

As is my wont these days, I left from my office just after 5 PM. My cab stopped at the CST signal. Several times, an old lady is present there (the same old lady mentioned in my previous note), seeking alms from those willing to give.

I have developed a habit of carrying some small packets of Parle G biscuits. I prefer to give those to anyone on the streets in need, whom I encounter. I have come across the CST lady quite a few times earlier as well. Since she doesn't have fingers, I usually tear the packet and give it to her. I did the same today, and the lady was simply delighted. A smile of sublime radiance spread across her face and she exclaimed "Thanks! Thanks! I will have this with tea" I noted with great satisfaction how the lady chose to gracefully accept and be happy with what came her way. That is the kind of choice even a beggar can exercise.

The next beggar I encountered was at the National College signal in Bandra. Another old lady. She was scanning the vehicles and their passengers, looking for open windows. All of a sudden she caught my eye, and started moving towards my cab. I took out a packet and gave it to her. She took it, observed it for a moment, placed it on the window and walked away.

For a fleeting moment - the kind of moment which feels much longer than would be measured by a watch - I was shocked. A beggar refused what came her way. How can a beggar refuse? But then it dawned upon me that that was the whole point - even if beggars can't choose what comes their way, they can choose whether to accept or reject what does come.

Which brings me to the third beggar. Myself. Wasn't I also a beggar? Wasn't I begging for the intoxication of giving, the heady realization of being placed in a position to help others in need? Once I realized that, I knew what I had to do with the packet. I opened it, and ate all the biscuits.

It was my arrogance which sought to make me humble. I accepted what even the rejected had rejected. Purely symbolic, no doubt. But a reminder that not only are all beggars choosers, but that all choosers are also beggars...