“Bhaiyaa.” – she said.
(Bhaiyaa is a respectable word, which originally means elder brother. But, we use it in usual way to address a random person while talking, whose name we don’t know.)
I turned around to see that a lady, who seemed to be in her late 30s, standing wearing less tidy clothes and it seemed that she wanted to tell something.
“Yes.” – I replied.
“Bhaiyaa, Do dinn se bhukey hain. Do paranthas dila dijiye, 20 rupees ke aayenge.”
[Bhaiya, I am hungry since two days. Please buy me two paranthas (thick chapati with potato mashed in between the layers), it will cost just Rs.20 only.] – she said, pointing towards a nearby place where two-three push-trucks (thelewallas) were located.
I was standing at a dairy shop, where I stopped in order to buy some curd for myself, when she uttered this. I felt she is genuinely in need as she was requesting for food, which is usually not the case. I have seen beggars demanding money, but I was against giving them money, and instead advocated to help them out with food.
“Thik hai. (Okay)” – I said.
And, then I told the dairy shop that I will be back in a moment. I then walked towards one of the push-trucks located adjacent to the dairy shop. It was comparitively less crowded, with two customers standing and eating.
I went near to it, and spoke to the push-truck owner – “How much for two paranthas?”
“Twenty rupees only.” – he replied.
I handed him twenty rupees and pointed towards her and said, “Please give two paranthas to her.”
He replied affirmatively and then I went straightaway to the dairy, which was just adjacent to the place, where push-trucks were located.
As two-three customers were standing, the dairy shop owner was busy taking their orders and I was waiting in all this.
“Why these two paranthas? Make fresh ones for me.” – she said to the push-truck owner.
The push-truck owner replied, “These have been made around 5-10 minutes back only. They are fresh already.”
I was amazed to see that her voice suddenly changed from soft and requesting to commanding and loud in a mere few minutes.
“No. I don’t trust you and your preparation. Give me back my Rs.20/-” – she said to the push-truck owner.
I stood silently and wanted to know what happens next.
The push-truck owner replied, “These are the fresh ones. And we won’t pay you back any money, and if we will have to pay then we will give back to the person, who paid for these paranthas, not you.”
By then, the dairy owner handed over my stuff .i.e. curd and I was about to leave the place. I walked towards the bike and put the dairy stuff in the side bag, and then stopped for a few moments.
I looked at the push-truck again, and I saw that she was eating the paranthas now, without any complaint and insisting the person to add some more complimentary pickle to her order.
I then started the ignition of the bike and drove it back to my home. While driving I was thinking, whether I did right or not by paying for the paranthas? Was it my kindness or foolishness? Did I accidentally promoted beggary this way?
Many questions arose in my mind after that, with no powerful answer to any of those. But in all this, I felt happy somehow that she was eating the paranthas, which was the sole purpose of me paying for the paranthas.
I remembered the doha by Kabir;
साईं इतना दीजिये, जा मे कुटुम समाय । मैं भी भूखा न रहूँ, साधु ना भूखा जाय
[Note: The photo used here as featured photo is for representation purposes only, special thanks to CANVA for the photograph. It was not the original photo of the event/incident that happened.]