“Hello, oru cheriyyyoruu sahayam venamayirunnu…” Just need a small help… he said in Malayalam, overstressing on the ‘small’. But, since I had already seen this short, thin man in padded-up shirts hesitatingly approach someone who went before me on the busy street near the S.N. Park road in my hometown, I was prepared. I quickly dodged him, pretended that I didn’t see him…
From the corner of my eye, I saw him looking bewilderedly at my fast disappearing skinny back. I got to the Milma booth near the Metro Supermarket and stood there. I sneaked a look to see if he managed to catch anyone else, but no one stopped to hear him out. Either everyone was too busy or the current COVID season has hardened their hearts along with their hearing. No one wanted to help or even hear what he wanted to say.
A slight guilt rippled through me and I stared at the Milma booth for sometime as the man there kept asking me what I wanted. “Must be a fool,” I heard them say when I moved from there without saying anything. I was a bit a bit nonplussed with myself; with my actions.
I have never done this before.
Avoid someone that is.
Rather, avoid someone who came to me for help – whatever help that maybe. Oh I do avoid people.
I have made of that science into a special art.
Occasions have been aplenty when I would even stop at the gate of my own home seeing some painful visitor at the doorstep talking to my family members and I would just quickly walk past, as though it was some other house, and disappear until the visitor left.
There was this rude and saracasm-laden ‘uncle’ whom I used to avoid during my walks when I was a youngster. That man opened his mouth only to criticism of my appearance, how skinny I looked and why I was growing my hair like a girl and why was I dark like a cloud that threatened to burst… After some initial skirmishes of the above order, I would neatly cross the road and just walk on straight without looking at his side and he would rarely see, because he would only look either straight before him or down below on the road. Other times, I would just duck into a corner and as I was very skinny I could even walk behind someone and no one would see me. This way I used to avoid many unpleasant encounters. I have avoided people; especially those that I don’t want to get into a conversation with.
Lately, I confess, I have been avoiding those whom I owe money. But, till yesterday, I have never brushed off an entreaty for help. This was not something dramatic as that but still; I gather he wanted some monetary help. Of course the so-called fraudulent ones do this trick of suddenly appearing before you and claim some misfortune and force you to open your purse.
But if someone approached me for some small monetary help, I would dip in and give what little I could. I have never refused because I always feel that by avoiding giving someone even if they were pulling a fast one me I would be unjustly including the genuine, deserving ones in that lot. Blanket statements have that fault; they sweep under the carpet the dust and the diamonds too.
But, this was unwarranted. Because I didn’t even hear him out. I know why exactly I avoided him. I had a valid reason. For, as far as wallets go, we could both exchange each other’s and end up not losing a thing. We maybe rowing towards different routes, but we were in the same boat. This was the only reason why I didn’t stop and listen to his story. Because even if the story didn’t sound genuine, I would have reached into my pocket for my wallet. But empty wallets, like vessels, make noise. And only the owner hears that debilitating tinnitus-type crazy noise telling him you are empty, you are empty, not unlike the fuel-empty warnings in vehicles.
My fuel is empty.
But, at least, I could have heard his story.
And maybe exchanged mine.