Friday, January 8, 2010
THE FORSAKEN HEARTS
"I still think that the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one… That is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.” [Mother Theresa]
When I was a kid beggars of all kinds used to come to our house asking for alms. There were children, youngsters, mothers with their newborns, old people, lepers, the physically retarded, and many others.
Our house is located in a small alley where there are a total of three houses. One thing I have always noticed is that all these vagabonds will ‘visit’ only our house. Even if they try to stop at one of the other houses they will be driven away. At my place instead of being chased away they would get some money or old clothes or water and the giver was always my mother.
My mother has a policy about giving alms to these destitute people. If the person who comes is young, healthy, along with the money, she will hand out some free advice. She admonishes them for their laziness and asks them to go out into the world and earn a living. If the beggars are accompanied by children, she is outraged at the exploitation of the poor things. But her attitude changes when young mothers, or old and retarded people come. She not only gives them money but also becomes a listener to their woes.
My dear mother is always careful about keeping a distance with strangers but she still has an ear and a heart reserved for the poor who come to our house. As for me, I always used to feel very sad when children and young mothers came begging for alms. I questioned God about the unfair treatment meted out to such people. But after they left, I forgot all about them as I had ‘my life’ to look after.
Among all those people there was a leper who used to visit our place regularly. Half of all his ten fingers were missing; the wounds were all festered. A terrible stench used to emanate from his week- old or perhaps, months old unwashed clothes. His face was unshaven; he had a shabby bag and an assortment of chains around his neck. Back then, he was indeed an intimidating figure for me. He was a loner and whenever he came I never made any eye contact with him, I used to hand him the five rupee coin and run back to the house.
One day as I was hurrying towards the bus stop to catch my bus to college; a thousand things going through my mind about my friends, plans to spend time with them, things to do once I come home in the evening, the faces of some of my dear and near ones were fleeting across my mind. It was then that I saw the leper on the road. He was coming towards me, limping hurriedly, in the same outfit in which I had always seen him, with his bag that was loosely hung on his shoulder and the dirty notebook that he clutched on with his mangled hand [as he couldn’t open his palms because of his affected fingers he used to hold out the book for alms and the money was kept on it]. I realized that his gaze was upon me. So, I just lowered my head and walked on. It only took a second and then we went in opposite directions. I didn’t see him again. Suddenly the thought came to my mind-How lonely he is! Does he have any loved ones to think about, is he busy making plans to spend time with his friends? In his pathetic state does anyone care to even give him a smile? I certainly had not done so. I felt very much ashamed about what I did not do. I could have at least smiled at him but my pride didn’t allow me to do that because he was a beggar. Who is more pathetic here, he or I? I just tried to put myself in his shoe and I felt horrified. I don’t think I can ever survive without my loved ones around me.
Work pressure, poverty, illness; we can bear all these but to have no one with you in the journey of life, it is tough, an unbearable thought. To be always lonely and dejected, to think that no one is there to think or care about us, even to say ‘hello’ is the worst thing that can happen.
I have never seen that man again, I don’t know if he is still alive, but he made me realize this painful truth about loneliness and being unloved .I am aware that I cannot make any considerable change. But whenever I close my eyes and pray, I always remember to ask the Almighty to give strength to all the unloved, lonely souls out in the world and I thank Him for all the wonderful people I have around me for now.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.