Random musings…
The ones that got written down.

what happened?!

The privilege of being able to help someone when they are in need is one of the greatest opportunities that life gives you from time to time… when you miss that chance to help you are, for a very long time, tormented by the pain of not knowing what happened and did things work out for the person in need… specially when it’s a stranger you could have helped.

Earlier in the evening I dropped off Ria, my elder daughter for some engagement she had… I was supposed to pick her up in 90 minutes. Figured I would walk a bit because I’ve put on some more weight over the Diwali break. Stopped running over the break and now am moving rapidly from Dad bod to obscenely obese category. Something drastic needs to happen or else women all over the world will stop being interested in me anymore (ummm ok they never were to begin with but then Ghalib said Dil ko khush rakhne ka khayaal achcha hai). So anyway I started walking.

About a kilometer on I switched from the jogging track to the shoulder of the main road, Palm Beach Road. I would have gone just around 200 meters or so when someone tapped me on the shoulder. For a second I was jolted out of my reverie (Ria had put Mozart on the playlist and told me to listen to it… funny kid… I switched it to Telugu hits before getting out of the car…naa I didn’t though the thought did cross my mind but then I’m lazy like that)… So anyway I was wondering what in the name of Deve Gowda was tapping me on my shoulder while I walked along the dark unlit shoulder of a busy road. Anyway I took out the earphones and turned around to see. An old man holding onto his scooter and looking pretty bedraggled was trying to say something. I bent over to listen and caught a few words that amounted to “I have a request“. I knew what was coming next but I figured it’s ok it is wrong to walk along the main road with all that heavy traffic whizzing past I do deserve a little bit of scolding… but then as I said I’m in it to win it… the weight loss part… a hand or leg or maybe both getting ripped off in traffic might actually just tip the scales and bring the bmi within reasonable limits… so anyway I bent over to listen to the old guy admonish me about walking along a busy road.

As it turns out he was asking me to loan him some money. He said he was a teacher and that he had run out of money and he would soon run out of petrol as well. He had 30km more to go before he reaches home. He promised to send me the money when he gets home using UPI. I said but you can pay at the petrol pump using UPI. To that he said something vague which I later figured amounted to his kids would do it or some such. I knew I had two 500 rupee notes in my wallet. I also knew that uncle might very well be a drunk looking for the next gullible person who could fund his nightly fix. Of course I had no way of figuring out what was what. Very quickly I made my decision and asked him to ride on ahead till the fuel bunk which was on my planned walking route. I told him I will pay for the fuel once he has had it filled. That way I figured the old man would get the help he was asking for and I would be certain that I was actually helping him not funding some addiction. He nodded his head, I explained once again that the petrol pump is right after the signal and he said OK I will wait for you! Pretty sure both of us understood that he would be waiting for me to walk and get there so that I could pay for the petrol. I did try to tell him that if he explained to the attendant at the pump he will give him one liter of petrol as a goodwill gesture and not make too much of an issue out of it (of course I have had tonnes of such experiences so I know that people can be convinced to trust you if you speak truthfully). So he rode off toward the petrol pump. I walked a little faster not wanting to keep an old teacher waiting. I had not wanted to ride pillion with him because I was not sure if he was strong enough to support a wannabe 6 pack but right now 1 pack fatso sitting behind him on the scooter and I wasn’t sure if he would be comfortable letting me ride the scooter with him riding pillion. So yeah I walked he went ahead to wait. The pump was about 400 meters away.

It took me around 5 minutes to get there and as I got closer I kept thinking I should hurry up the poor fellow would be waiting. What if he found someone else to help him pay then I would never be able to help him and I really did want to help him out. I had even decided I wouldn’t give him my number for transferring the money back to me. I mean it’s just a hundred odd bucks. I was playing out scenarios where I would ask him how much can that tank hold and then paying for a full tank without asking him to return the money. Anyway so I reached, I saw the crowd and the queues and I went all around the fuel station and no uncle. Nope not inside not outside. I went around multiple times but nope I could not locate the scooter or anybody waiting for someone to come and pay for their petrol. I was very disturbed. I made multiple rounds of the place and then I started thinking “surely I must be looking like a lunatic going round and round a petrol pump …who knows this is how it ends… I become one of those crazies who roam the streets looking for an old uncle who wanted help reaching home“. It was really disappointing that I was unable to find the guy. I waited a couple of minutes more …then I realized I had to go back, Ria would be done in another 40 minutes and I had taken 37 minutes to walk till here…

I started walking back, this time I chose a different route. On this route I passed two Muslim burial grounds, a Christian burial ground and a Hindu crematorium, all next to each other, divided by hate united by death! Three friends were walking past these places playing a game of football with a discarded plastic bottle, passing it to each other as they walked. I walk fast when not walking with the kids or Sonali so I whizzed past them. All the time wondering where did the old man on the scooter, the guy who wanted me to help him, the one whom I was not fast enough to trust and give one of the 500 rupee notes in my wallet… where really did he go? More importantly did he find someone else to help him reach home safely. The pain of not knowing… it’s not a good thing…

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