By Adarsh Madhavan
Bobby (*) pulled at his leash and headed into an unlit corner of the road near my home one night, recently.
I usually jump, leap and somersault from one dark spot to another when taking my doggie out for a walk in the evenings/nighttimes. You never know who would pop up in the lit corners and as my antisocial tics were on a high, I resorted to this ‘shadow jumping’. Bobby tries to follow but he is most-often conspicuous by his off-white hairy wrap.
But then the other day something struck me when I went out and I am down with that, unable to move ahead.
You know, sometimes the dark corners of the streets throw up darker surprises than one can bargain for.
I had noticed them coming from a distance. There were two of them, dressed in loose pajama-like-slacks and T-shirts I guess. I noticed them because they looked a bit shifty. They increased their pace when they neared us and swiftly went past. They didn’t look at me but I had a good, hard look at them. I could recognise them anywhere. I am pretty sure. Since Bobby showed interest on a particular corner of the road, took aim and did his thing, I was held up and momentarily distracted.
But, I saw the two of them again. They were before me – at a distance. They seemed to slow down at a garbage bin and then crossed it, hesitated, pirouetted on their heels and then went to the bin again.
Bobby was surging ahead, but I slowed him, tried to interest him with another dark corner. In the meantime, I saw the duo earnestly rustling through the dumpster. I caught myself and stared down at my shoes. Bobby paused too as a car raced on the side of the road as if its tail was on fire. Even though it sped past, its lights easily picked the two and I saw their faces again.
They were desperately searching again, mindless of me, mindless of others. There was no hesitation now. They searched intently and I crossed them trying to catch whatever I could in that moment. One of them was holding a cardboard piece, the other, a plastic bag. Was it food that they were looking for? Was it clothes or something to recycle? I passed them and headed on. My head was still clouded by all of the thoughts it could think of: food, clothes, recyclable items, gosh, would they be hungry (of course, what a moronic query), would they be needing money, I could give them something – I mean, I know, I don’t have but just something.
I realised I was walking too fast and I was dragging Bobby along who was using all four legs as breaks as a means to stop me. I ignored him, turned around and decided I will approach the two. But, they had already finished their search and they were swiftly moving back to wherever they came from. I quickened my pace, trying to wave out to them but they moved very quickly and then disappeared into the darkness.
I kept walking in the direction but they had just vanished. I had no clue what happened. I wanted to know what they were looking for. Would it be food, which was quite hurting as I was sure I – or anyone in that area — could have helped on that front.
There is this old adage about one man’s trash being another one’s treasure, but when applied here, it tastes bad, bitter. Maybe they were only searching for recyclable items, which again was sad because it was distressing to think that people had to live by rummaging in garbage bins, find such items, clean them and sell them (to whoever it is that buys them). I know there are many who reach out to bins for cardboard boxes, and other recyclable items, which they resell.
I know this particular bit (**) is considered to be a crime in many places. But, as far as I am concerned, I think the bigger crime is to know that there are people out there desperate for a baiza or a bite and letting them go hungry.
(*) my four-legged buddy
(**) When diving into private dumpsters