White- clad, brown-headed, but looking sleek
the stick’ been the bête noire of health geeks.
But not to me, buddies, never for once in the past.
My alter ego the stick was and my macho’s logo
vicissitudes of life together we faced with cheers,
and puffing on her ever, braved I’d life’s fears.
But soon came a day-- a day of reckoning
when off she went from me with a smirk and in a huff
as I’d vowed to my gods not to puff. Neither she’d
now caresses my craving lips nor fills my lungs
with smoke and keep my blood warm and me charm.
Thrown I’d my dear ciggy and got her bond broken, not
for health sake but after seeing a shriveled
lame beggar in a fast moving unit train and hearing his
piteous cries for a single rupee coin.
A scrawny lame beggar hardly he could walk
and his face, a crushed lemon rind, everyone’d sulk.
A strap of loincloth on his hip was only his outfit.
With unkempt hair and blowing grey beard
hands he’d extend to all for alms: food or coins.
Drumming on his hollowed stomach, he’d sing old
songs from past flicks with a caressing voice.
Peeving at his presence, people in the train
threw at him coins, not out of sympathy
but to shift him elsewhere as they began
to die of the foul smell his outfit was emitting.
Piercing my soul was the beggar’s heart-rending plight
and goading me it was not to pursue the smoking delight.
‘No more ciggy. Flirt with her not and give the mendicant
all the money you would save not smoking’. A voice
I heard calling me from under my heart and
obeyed it at once as a tusker to his mahout.
Folding his hands over his empty tummy and
Curling himself up in the floor of a train station
I saw the beggar at last after a long search. When
A fifty-rupee note he got from me thrust on his hands
he cried in ecstasy not believing his eyes.
Kneeling down at my feet and wetting them with tears
he mumbled thanks and ran over to a food-stall.
In jitters went my blood craving for nicotine, but
firm I was clinging to my vow for the beggar’s sake.
Going well on my bucks that I gave him daily, he,
with gaiety, limped thro trains and cringed for alms.
New robes he wore on now, showing no more hunger pangs.
None in the train now shooed him away, as
he was so clean and tidy, singing new movie songs.
Elated I was reveling in what I’d done to a poor soul,
Which, besides saving me from the stick, gave a new
purpose to my life and a new meaning to my existence. But,
short-lived was my elation, as I didn’t see the beggar for days.
‘Who knows, he may be dead and gone now’ said a train colleague
making me search for him every train station.
Good heavens! I saw to my relief alive was the mendicant. But
lying inebriated in a secluded dark pavement, he was
with a shabby beggar woman. Puffing on a long ciggy and
letting out bellows of smoke around him, he was in a stupor.
Around him littered were cigts butts and empty bottles of beer.
Kissing and caressing the woman he babbled in booze:
‘I’ve a moron for my benefactor. Why should I go then and beg?’
The woman laughed when she heard him mimic my voice.
Petrified, I felt my head reeling and heart breaking bits and pieces.
‘Is showing compassion to a poor a crime?
Had I thrown pearls before a mud-smearing pig?
Did I mistake a serpentine a coil of rope?
While I stood speechless and got slapped by questions,
the beggar took the woman to a loo.