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March 29, 2013

Of the beggar who saw beyond

Sitting alone, he rarely felt dejected. He had the advantage of having the best seat in the platform, right next to the police chowki. And it was close to the reasonably clean toilet as well. Such a location had its advantages, as people would invariably and slyly turn their glance while walking past the chowki, staring wide eyed at the young smart polici recruits. They would end up seeing him and often out of pity hand over some change if they had. As the public toilet was nearby, he could garner more change, often dirty change, as people coming out would invariably set their eyes on the recruits and then on the beggar - feel exhilarated and disgusted in the same breath and throw away whatever change that might have been in their closed palms.

What the beggar was witness to is a long story - something I might take years to recollect but he did see a lot of death. Death and very very rarely, life as well. Well, it happens in India. He recounts seeing atleast eight babies being born right in front of his eyes on this very platform. But that one death was special for it spoke of the times we live in. Times where death is cheap and forgotten as one takes a couple of steps away from the scene.

That death was special. 8 boys standing in front of a just stopped train, six-seven recruits reporting for duty, the toilet cleaner relaxed as the next few hours was to have elaborate maintenance, even him - the beggar - knowing that in this heat no curios lovers will walk his way. In short, everyone was preparing for what would happen next, everyone was on their own.

And then the train started. The man slipped. He heard the recruits shout, the eight men stumped, no one moving, everyone in a state of shock, the man about to die had this look on his face wherein he could not believe that this could happen to him, the scene unfolding, he going under the train very very very slowly, the recruits slumbering out of their shock, preparing to run, they tumbling over the foreman's box, the eight chattering, giggling, laughing-at-girls-all-the-time men still in shock and then the beggar, perhaps realising that things were going beyond the written script jumping towards the train.

The recruits had a mighty fall, several of them on top of each other, the eight men perhaps taking notes and registering their memories so that they could recall this incident all through their lives and the beggar running. The beggar was the only human form that was running, the other form was currently going deep underground, the beggar managed to reach the train. He actually hit the train at full speed and could manage to grasp the hand of the falling one. But that was not enough, his or perhaps the soon to be dead fellow's hand slipped and he went under the now pacing train. Somebody pulled the chain. The beggar recoiling after lying next to the now stopping chain suddenly realised that he ran with just a leg, with one leg. He couldn't get up now.

He tried hard and managed to return to his seat, the body was being brought up, totally mangled, one leg severed from the body, it struck the beggar's mind - that leg could fit him perfectly in a different time perhaps. He got up and changed his seat forever. That special death broke him a bit further that day, the beggar was a destitute after all.