Man with a golden heart
When Samrat returned home from the office, he was exhausted. He jumped on the sofa, kept his bag aside and took a long breath.
Realising that the next day was a holiday, he thought, “I am going to get up late tomorrow. It’s a luxury to be able to sleep more than six hours.”
It was Friday, and he had eaten at a restaurant. He changed his clothes, went to his bed and fell asleep very soon.
The next morning, he was woken up at 9:00 am by a loud ring of his phone. He did not bother to look at who was calling him before picking up the phone.
“Hello,” he said in a sleepy tone.
His mother, realising that he was still sleeping, screamed, “Are you still asleep? It’s nine o’clock. I am tired of telling you to wake up early in the morning. I just received a call from your uncle. You have not reached there yet. They have a function at their home today. Now, quickly freshen up, reach there on time and be of some help to them.”
Samrat just listened, without uttering a single word. After saying what she had to say, she hung up the phone. Samrat’s mother was a tall, slim, and a kind-hearted woman in her sixties. Samrat knew her nature very well. She was a good woman, but she was also very strict with her family members, and it was always her way or the highway.
He was in no hurry to reach his uncle’s house. He had gotten a day off after working without a break for three straight weeks. He wanted to savour his holiday. Very reluctantly, he slipped out of the blanket and went to freshen up.
He then prepared a cup of tea for himself and sat on the sofa. He never used to get time to go through the newspapers that the paperboy delivered at his doorstep each morning, so that day he decided to read the paper. After reading two pages, he realised that he better hurry to his uncle’s house.
He wanted to have a light breakfast before heading out but realised that he would be too late, and he didn’t want to anger his mother any more than he already had. He started his motorcycle and made his way to his uncle’s house.
Every day while commuting by motorcycle to his office, about 10 minutes far from his home, he would see a beggar sitting under a tree. The man was in his late 60s with salt and pepper hair. He was physically disabled. But for the last few days, Samrat hadn’t seen the man. Every time he passed where the man used to be, he would wonder where the man had gone.
Just as Samrat neared the tree where the man used to stay, it started raining. He stopped his motorcycle and took shelter under the tree. He was surprised to see very same the man sitting under it too.
As heavy rain lashed the streets, Samrat sat observing the man. He had a plastic bowl filled with coins and notes. On his commute to work, Samrat had seen people put money in that plastic bowl. But seeing the beggar and his bowl up close, Samrat wondered if the money he earned begging was enough to survive. “It must be a tough life,” he thought. But when Samrat observed the man’s face, it didn’t look like a face that had seen many hardships. He wondered whether the man had a family or not. A month before, he had seen a woman and two small children, all wearing ragged clothes, sitting near him. The children were loitering and cheering around him. So he had thought that they might be his family. But he hadn’t seen them after that day.
It had rained for over thirty minutes, and it didn’t look like it was going to stop any time soon. Samrat had no option left but to continue observing his surroundings. Not far from where he was standing was an unkempt woman in her late 30s. She had a huge untidy sack with her. The sack and the woman were both sulking, perhaps at each other. There was also a small unkempt boy. He was wearing a worn-out t-shirt and tatty, patch-covered shorts. The hapless woman was begging money to people who were taking refuge under the tree and in the nearby shops.
They did not bother to even look at her properly. “We have no money,” said one of the young boys.
She then asked money with three women who were dressed as if they were
going to some party. When the three women saw her coming near, they stepped back and in a demeaning tone said, “We don’t have money. Ask other people.”
The three women’s reaction took Samrat by surprise. A few minutes ago, they were talking about how people these days are so selfish and stone hearted. And this rude gesture mirrored their stone-heartedness heart, Samrat told himself.
The woman sat near the male beggar with salt and pepper hair and started to cry.
“Both my child and I haven’t eaten since yesterday, and I do not have any money to buy food,” she said.
The man listened to her attentively with a sympathetic look on his face. He thought for a while and handed her all the money he had in his plastic bowl and said, “I understand your situation. You go and buy food. Feed yourself and your child.”
Samrat was watching everything and was surprised by the man’s ability to empathise and his generosity. Samrat wondered how many days it might have taken the man to earn the money he had just handed over to the woman. Samrat who had earlier decided not to talk to the man, but after seeing his kind gesture, went near him and asked, “You gave all your money to the woman; what will you eat?”
The man fished into a plastic bag and found a half-eaten doughnut. “I have a doughnut, and that will satisfy my appetite,” he said. The generosity of the man touched Samrat and he realised that the poor man had a heart of gold.
He wondered what it was that made some people so generous and kind-hearted, and some so stone-hearted. Samrat thought, “Raindrops could wash away the filth of the land, but filth in human hearts is difficult to wash away. People with golden hearts are very rare.”