December 29, 2007 07:20 | Confession / Travel

A cruel trick

(written December 19th, 2006. Forgot to publish until December 31st, 2007)

My thoughts as I ride a taxi out of Delhi towards the domestic airport on my way to Bangalore, turn to the chaos, the disorder, the disarray, disrepair, destitute and abject poverty evident everywhere I looked in this city.

The saying is that "time is money", but this is a cruel trick; a slight of hand to keep one from seeing that when one has no money, time means little. Yes, even the poorest strive every moment for any rupee they can get, but it is out of purest survival and not the for the maintenance of the many layers of abstractions many of us, in the so-called "civilized" west, live in, removed from that most frightening point--the point where survival runs out.

I came here with an enormous sense of anxiety, the source of which I was not entirely clear on. I knew it was not work related, and though I thought I could chalk it up to apprehension towards the unknown elements of my travel plans, I knew it couldn't be that. I work well in adversity, I can flow with the moment.

"Please sir, two rupees," she said as she weakly presented some daily newspaper to me and mimed putting food in her mouth. Her eyes were dull. Almost dead. She was under ten years of age and perched here on the side of an overcrowded roadway, peddling whatever she could for survival.

I, on the other side of the open window, was in a taxi that was going to cost me 350 rupees. I rather not even think for one second how many rupees I just credited the last 3 nights in a 5 star hotel to without going flush, with a weight in my chest.

The taxi began to move again, but I was paralyzed.

(I have no illusions of the many faces of this coin: a few moments later, at the next intersection, two children came and begged and after another tortuous refusal, they both cracked huge mischievous smiles, the younger boy smacking me on the knee as they ran away laughing... It was not malicious, and I am not callous or over sympathetic; I laughed then too.)

The anxiety I had been feeling came from weeks of preparation for this horrible moment. Weeks of dulling my emotions, killing my heart and steeling up for the moment when another sentient human being came to me and asked for help that I could so ... SO easily and fluidly provide... and have to refuse.

Why refuse? I don't know. But the shock is tremendous.

As I pondered this, a scooter zipped by with the following admonition advertised on it's spare wheel cover:

"If your neighbor is suffering injustice and you can sleep, then just wait your turn."


great stuff boris

i remember similar feelings, but i rationalized it as follows: there are far more needy children in India than you have rupees. if you succumb to giving in that kind of environment you will quickly be exhausted and poor yourself, since there is no stopping.

plus it's bad socioeconomically or something like that.


2- Boris Anthony

thanks Bosko
What made the emotion all the more overwhelming was the lifetime of rationalization...

Reason is what raised us from the dirt, and also what will return us to it very likely.