This is not a story. It happened last year on this day when I joined the family picnic party of Sonalika Group. I worked as the Vice President Human Resource of the group for a few months.”I saw those three beggar children in Chamba.They were thin and dark, and wore shabby and dirty clothes. Strangely though, they were full of life and smiles. They were vibrantly playful. They seemed to have accepted life for what it offered them. The elder brother was majestically shining- both in face and authority. The younger sister was moving around us with a bowl in her hand. She did not seem to sell her hunger for money. To me, she seemed smart and sweet like anybody’s sister. I saw in her my younger sister Khuku in her childhood days. Her elder brother resmbled myself in my tender age. And there was that youngest boy, hardly in his two and half or, at best, three. He moved alone merrily as a saint, as if innocently indifferent about everything that was going on around.I was on the que for lunch. The young girl was struggling in her mind to be in the que. She was discretely aware of her disentitlement of any foermal authority to have a share of the meals. But, she maintained her keenly investigative eyes on each one of us, so she may not miss even the faintest signal of a possible nod from any one of us that would grant her the moral authority to pertake of even a menial share. The only person who I knew was keeping track of this girl could not offer that nod. His inner world had enough clouds to cover the light of humanity. One of the organizors asked her to stay away.
This was our way of expressing courtesy in favour of the priviledged. After all, we had legitimately earned the priviledge of being served our rights. She stayed away from us, but her eyes did not.My heart was pierced in pain. I wanted to run away. I could not due to my hunger- both for the food of my right and also for maintaining my dignity and prestige of being the Vice President- Human Resource of my company and in that capacity was leading the picnic team of our company. I ate and perhaps relished the food. I made sure, the disposable plate bore nothing more than a few casual stains of tarmarine.Then I sat down on the bench of the park to digest the food and also the whole experience that flowed along. I found those children having returned to their erstwhile activities and their empty bowl lay helplessely below another bench. None of the children seemed to have any contempt for any of us. Were they Gods?My colleagues went to offer their prayers to one of the nearby temples. I didn’t.Yes, I did struggle with a peculiar kind of pain while I was in the que. My appetite was seemingly divorced from my soul. So, I could manage to ignore my pain and ate. My stomach had innocently digested the food. But, I still wonder if my heart could digest the experience. As I was watching the three children from the bench, I was overtaken by a deep sense of guilt. The guilt seemed to redicule my status, position, and most, my designation of the Head of Human Resource. Strangely, I also experienced a peculiar kind of satisfaction for being left with some residual sense of humanity. What followed, therefore, was more guilt.I called one of the volunteers and whispered into his ears that he should give those children some food after catering all the members of the picnic party.
I had almost unconsciously prayed for some food being available after all our colleagues and catering staff had their lunch. I am not sure if my prayer was primarily due to my compassion for those children or being relieved from the pain, guilt and agony of taking the food in spite of those three hungry children.I called those children near me; asked the boy to take his brother on his lap. Then I made their sister stand beside. I took a still snap of the three children. I showed them their own picture. Their giggles seemed to offer a healing balm on my wound. I remember clearly, I had felt true compassion for the children at that very moment. (I do dearly preserve their pictures, even today and can send you the same)The volunteer was not visible. Perhaps he too had joined the temple team. Thankfully, one of the caterer’s men came up and asked me what he should do with the left out food as all had eaten. My heart dance in joy. I hurriedly told them to give the food to children. Did God listen to my prayers?I called the young girl and asked her to collect her food. She never looked at the catering station and jeered, ‘nehi denge’ (they wont give).
I told her, ‘denge denge’ (go, they will give). All three ran with their bowl.I kept looking at the two children walking away from the park; the elder boy carried his brother in his lap and the girl held her bowl filled with food. The rest, I had to only feel happy imagining. Were they sharing the food with their parents in a dilapidated small cottage in one of the nearby slums? I wished them a great feast on that small bowl.From the other side, I saw the temple party returninng.”