Wednesday, October 22, 2008

She shifted the child from her left hip to the right. Torn and dirty sari tied about her thin frame, hair brown with dirt and unwashed, adorned with flowers that had long ago lost any colour or fragrance they might have had. The child was crying, a nonstop low keening sound that meant that it was unwell and hungry. It had probably cried all night and now had no strength to carry on. Beggars are an unusual sight in the Kerala landscape, the few who are here are imports from the neighboring states. I stopped to see what she wanted. She was begging for a few rupees to take the child to the hospital, or so she said. Having read stories about children being stolen by beggar gangs to help in pulling at heart strings, I was quite cynical about her. "Come to the hospital with me and I'll get you some medicines" "No, amma , give me money." When I refused to do that, and insisted that she come to the hospital , she asked me "Doctoraa?" "No, but I can get you some medicines"

By now she was curious. "Where, amma?" I gave her the location, but I feel ashamed to say I wasn't about to get her into the car and take her there.

Needless to say, she didn't come. It was a little distance away and she was probably tired out. The whole day guilt gnawed at me, I wondered what happened to the two of them. Wondered how the child was. Wondered whether the woman had got any money and whether she had used it for medicines and food. Maybe I should have just given the money anyway and not insisted that she come to the hospital.

Wrapped in our cocoon of acquisitions, we don't realise how difficult it is for some to get even the very basic of things like food, shelter , clothing and medication. We are ready to help with material things, but when it comes to inconvieniencing ourselves, we hesitate. And the saddest part is, I dont know that if it happens again, whether I will act any differently.