She should have been in the kindergarten playing with other kids, but she was out there barefoot in the scathing heat of the noon. Her clothes were ragged and her hair resembled spider-web tinted in the dusty smog of the traffic. Instead of doodling with the crayons, her tender hands held an over-sized aluminium plate that housed a few coins the people around me threw in as she walked by. As she stretched her arms out to beg, her drained lips were moving but I could bet that there was no sound she could make anymore. As she walked in towards me, I wanted to turn my blind eye towards her – as I do with all beggars – but I couldn’t. As I stared at her innocent face, a cold sea of thoughts rushed through my head. I should do something about this. The traffic signal in front of me showed around ten seconds to green as I took a glance.
She then came over to me, as I stared at her with indecision. But as she stood close and stretched her arms with her plate, I froze with a sudden chill through my nerves. I could smell a deep odour of alcohol through her. She was drunk! The little princess who hardly was five was made to drink liquor! My hands trembled and my heartbeats hastened. But as I continued to stare at her in horror and disbelief, she started walking off; perhaps even faster than she had come by. When I turned back to see where she was going, the bikers behind me were glowering at me with loud honks. The ten seconds were up and the signal was green. As the people behind me started shouting at me to give them way, I felt like I was woken up from one of my worst nightmares. Sadly, it wasn’t one. I started the engine in a scurry and took my bike on to the side. But as I stopped and looked around for the girl, I could only see a flood of vehicles rushing past me. I sighed hopelessly without a hint of what to do next, as the traffic cop motioned towards me.
“The beggar?” he asked me, as if he was closely observing all my moves in the past few minutes.
“Yes. She’s drunk! She is just a kid! And-” I was out of air to say all of what I wanted to, gaping at a prospect all of a sudden. He must do something. Call up his police friends and find her!
“Where are you from?” The traffic cop was unmoved, with the last question I expected him to ask.
“We should find her. I need your help!” I asked him again with a dying faith, wiping the sweat off my face.
“And you’ll be the traffic cop for the rest of the day?” he laughed, “Go find her! This happens every day!” he walked off as I stared at him with disbelief.
In the next twenty minutes, I looked around for her only to be ridiculed by my fair-weather friend called luck. As I gave up, I asked myself a question which I ask myself even now: Could I have saved her? If yes, why didn’t I?
Written as an entry to the Mango Chutney Anthology. You can send your entries too! Deadline: 15th June 2014.
Categories: Standing By India