Short Story Social Issue – I-CON ONE
Those were the days when I was studying M.Sc. (Tech.) in the department of Meteorology & Oceanography, in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. I was young, vitriolic, idealistic, and was full of pep and vigour. I thought that the world, and everything about the world was wrong and I was right but wasn’t able to do anything because of the “system”.
One morning early in the day, I was standing in the first floor balcony of our Department with some of my friends, waiting for the classes to commence. We were, as usual, discussing the evils in our society and our helplessness to uproot or, at least, curb them.
“Humanity is dead. Everyone is self-centred. Nobody thinks of others or the society at large. It is just grab-and-grab-and-grab for oneself. Why can’t man think of others?” My friends animatedly joined the discussion.
My eyes caught the movements of a man walking on the road below. He must have been around forty, short and tan in complexion. His clothes – trousers and shirt – were crumpled and dirty, as though they haven’t seen water for a very long time. He was without slippers and was walking along unsteadily.
“Look. That fellow is already drunk at this hour of the morning,” I said pointing to him. My friends looked on curiously. To our astonishment, even as we were watching him, he stumbled and fell on the road in a heap, like a rag doll. Without thinking twice, I ran down the stairs and out of our building, towards the stranger; like Lord Vishnu did to save Gajendra the king of elephants from a crocodile. Some of my friends followed me.
I ran to him and knelt beside him. I didn’t smell alcohol from him. I looked up at my friends and said, “He isn’t drunk, guys; looks like he has fainted.” Saying this I started reviving him with their help. One of them ran back to the Department and brought water in a glass. We sprinkled a little water on his face and revived him. Gradually, he sat up with our support. When we asked him what had happened, he started narrating his story.
“I am unemployed. I don’t have any money and haven’t eaten in two days. I cannot go back home and be a burden on my family. I don’t know what to do.” He looked very sad, depressed and dejected. “What is the purpose of living like this?” He continued.
We consoled him to the extent our experience and maturity permitted. My friends agreed with my suggestion and we pooled up a small amount of about ten rupees. I placed the money in his hand and said gently, “Sir, go to the Canteen and have some breakfast and coffee. Everything will be alright.”
Although he seemed reluctant initially, he accepted our small donation and got up groggily, thanked us profusely and walked away unsteadily in the direction of the Canteen.
Our Good Samaritan act of the day accomplished, we ran back to our class, which had already commenced, and forgot all about the hungry stranger.
It was five p.m. The classes were over for the day. I was walking towards the Canteen for a welcome cup of tea and snacks, along with my friends. We were talking animatedly about a movie released recently.
When we were about a hundred metres from the Canteen I saw something and stopped in my stride. “Guys, look,” I said and pointed to a small group of people gathered in a circle. We moved in that direction but couldn’t see what was at the centre of all that activity. I pushed through the small crowd and reached the centre where there was a small clearing. I was jolted mildly by what I saw inside.
The “hungry stranger” of the morning was lying on the ground with eyes closed and a few Good Samaritans were reviving him. Within minutes he sat up and said, “I am unemployed. I don’t have any money and haven’t eaten in two days. I cannot go back home and be burden on my family. I don’t know what to do. What is the purpose of living like this?” One of the “spectators” gave him some money and asked him to have some snacks and coffee in the Canteen.
Dumbfounded, I looked at my friends who, too, had nothing to say. We walked into the Canteen and ordered snacks and tea.