On the Face of It
by Dincy Mariyam
(Kannur, Kerala, India)
“I’m late. Oh no! I don’t want to do tuck jumps again.” I was cycling as fast as I could to reach the class on time. Even though I just had five minutes to be on time, I spent a few moments admiring the Baya weaver bird nests on the Acacia tree. There were ten to fifteen of them on a single tree and this sight had always made me happy and contented.
I cycled past pedestrians who were enjoying the fresh air after a long day’s work and children playing on the grounds without a care in the world.
I finally reached the building where class usually took place. I was a little out of breath as I tried to park my cycle and jog up to the class. I was late. To my surprise, all students and their respective guardians were gathered under the peepal tree instead of practising warm-up exercises. Our instructor had not arrived yet and someone had a 'brainwave' to call him up to find out about the class.
To everyone’s joy and unfortunately my disappointment, not because of missing the class, but at the sheer waste of all the effort put into getting there, it had been cancelled. I walked back to the cycle heavy-hearted. Since food is known to make people happy, I decided to treat myself to some delicious junk food on the way back. As though the universe was against my happiness, I had no money on me, with my wallet sitting nicely tucked away in a bag in my room.
I cursed my bad luck and started to cycle back. I decided to take a proper tarred road as opposed to the rocky, narrow, but shorter route, because I had all the time in the world from the class to myself.
The traffic had not yet picked up, which meant that I was allowed to admire the surroundings and observe people on the road without the fear of being run over. A man and boy on the other side of the road caught my attention. The boy, who looked seriously ill, was resting on the man's lap while the
man was saying something to the pedestrians walking past him with pleading and sorrowful expressions. By the time I had processed all of the above information and concluded that they needed help, I had passed them.
My conscience pricked me and reminded me of my duty as a human to go help a fellow being. As I went to him, he said, (i> “Krupaya mala madat kara!”, and I nodded. Between sobs, he rambled about his son's illness and his inability to raise enough money for treatment.
He requested some financial help from me but at that moment I probably had less money than him on my person. It struck me that there was a primary healthcare centre nearby and so I decided to ask the doctor for help. I replied to him in Marathi (which in my case is a hybrid of Hindi words in a Marathi accent) that I was going to fetch help and return soon.
I raced to the clinic, met the doctor and explained the situation to her. She asked the security guard to assess the situation and in the meanwhile asked me for more information. She had a skeptical look on her face while I continued, and at the end of it she enquired about the boy’s age. From what I had seen, I estimated his age to be around ten years and informed the doctor about the same.
Her skeptical look melted into a sorry smile as though I had been naive enough to be cheated. She told me that the duo went around the city making money from people who sympathised with them, but the child had never been treated for his illness. Also, the father refused medical help when offered because it brought him easy money.
I was devastated by the fact that a parent could treat his child in such a manner. Mentally cursing his behaviour, I cycled back on a different road, not wanting to see the father with his mask of helplessness.
Two weeks later, while travelling in a bus, I spotted the two familiar faces- one with the mask and the other a tad too thin. ***