From the college days......
It was a very usual kind of Sunday and I was in a very usual kind of mood ..the one you have after rising up at 11 am on Sundays. It is a very perfect blend of lethargy and the feeling "to do something". Most of my "to do something" feelings land me at Daryaganj or "Sanjay Van" or "Hauz Khas Woodland". This very day I went to Daryaganj. The bus was filled up to brim if something like that is defined for buses and with heat of 2 pm it was quite a relief when I got down.
I filled up my time with browsing and bargaining and by some demand made by the intestinal juices landed up at a sweet shop. I like sweets and I like gulab-jamun. So I ordered one . "Bhai Sahib yeh eq plate gulab jamun milenge (? + . ) " . I must make it clear here that the plate I referred to was actually a "leaf plate".
This "leaf plate " concept is actually very practical and useful. It is made from leaves of the trees and not the tree itself while paper is made from trees. So in one lifetime a tree may produce millions of "leaf plates" but may be only a few thousand "paper-plates". Second the shopkeeper does not have to worry about washing the dishes. Third one can take it and eat wherever whenever one wishes. Now not all shopkeepers use leaf plates. Some use plastic bags. First of all plastic is not nature friendly. It is not bio-degradable. Second if you try to eat a gulab-jamun from a plastic bag you will invariably apply "chashni" to various parts of your hand which is hard to clean and disgusting to lick in public. But if one uses "leaf plates" such problems don't arise. You can easily manage with your fingers and hence lick them at leisure. That is business as usual in India, they even show such stuff in tv adds.
Anyway I just got my "leaf plate" with two gulab jamuns and started eating. The shopkeeper seemed to be a good citizen because he had put up a small dustbin just outside his shop. The dustbin was completely filled and some of the "leaf plates" had fallen outside the dustbin. There was a beggar who looked like kind of mad and he was scrutinizing the dustbin for plates which had some of the contents left. Every now and then he will select a plate and lick it completely. He must be in his forties but his innocent happiness on tasting sugar was drooling on his face. He didn't begged anyone for something, largely ignored, he was busy in his pursuit of non empty plates. Just then a Bhai Sahab finished of his stuff and his plate became the root of the heap over the dustbin. This diverted the attention of the beggar and he left the one plate he was holding in his hand to get this new one. I had about half of gulab jamun left. Something just stopped me from eating it. I guess it had something to do with the concept of how few things either to be possessed or done may not have much significance in our own lives but they have lots of significance in other people's lives, who are insignificant for us.
I don't care what it was but then this beautiful and most generous thought came to my mind, why don't I give this half gulab-jamun to him. It will take him at least 10 plates to make one half gulab-jamun. The idea wasn't really bad and all I had to do was to throw my plate into the dustbin. He would have taken care from there on. But at the same time another thought came to my mind. Why should I throw this into dustbin? Don't I have any respect for this man? I can give it to him in his hand, that will be befitting. I could not decide which of the two choices was better. If I throw it in the dustbin, I have no significance for the mad man. His relationship existed solely with the dustbin. He was eating what other have thrown into it, a waste, and hence he was not begging. Its like some people borrow money from bank and some deposit into back, but people who borrow money are not grateful to people who deposit. They don't have any relationship with each other. The other choice of giving it directly to the mad man would make him a "begger" which currently he was not. Point to be noted he was not begging.
Showing respect was disrespectful and showing disrespect was respectful. I ate all that was left, kept the plate with myself and walked away.