She sat on the road divider by the traffic lights. In the scorching heat. The stone on the road divider hot enough to fry an egg. Waiting for the light to turn red. Maybe this time someone will condescend to roll down the window an inch and drop a coin. And maybe she will be quick enough to pick it up before the lights turn green and another speeding vehicle takes away her remaining limbs. At least she was lucky. Lucky to have lost an arm. She was now a legitimate beggar. Not just a destitute with no work and a family to support. People sympathized with her. Some even gave money. And she was lucky enough not to have lost one arm and one leg, like the fellow across the road, who had to be wheeled around.
He sat on the leather upholstered seat of his sports car. The air-conditioner going full blast, but not making much difference. Rivulets of sweat formed damp patches at his collar and armpits. He was miserable. Profits posted by his Company were at the record low. He was having a bad hangover from the party last night. And his elbow was playing up again. The slow moving traffic, and the large number of traffic lights, forcing him to stop every few minutes, was getting on his nerves. And to make matters worse, at each crossing, there was a large population of beggars, tapping and scratching on the window, forcing him to open it to yell at them, and loose whatever cooling had been achieved in the car - and in his mind.
She saw the light turn from green to yellow, and then red. Instinctively she swung up, the begging bowl perched between the stump of her arm and chest. The first few cars jumped the red light, but the others were forced to a stop by the traffic going across. She eyed the cars, trying to judge who would be more forthcoming. If only they would made their intentions clear immediately and did not look straight in front as if they were unaware of her. Avoiding eye contact. Not saying anything. And in the process making her waste the precious seconds that she could devote to others.
He cursed under his breath seeing the traffic lights turn red. He cursed in a low voice at the car in front at not having speeded up and crossed while the light was yellow, and allowing him to do the same. And he cursed loudly seeing the beggar girl coming towards him. Then his eye fell on the rags worn by the girl. And then on the blistered feet. And then on the stump of the arm. And finally on the smile on her face. The window rolled down. And the coins spluttered into the bowl. The heat forgotten. The problems shelved. The good deed done. The equanimity returned.
She looked into the bowl. Then into the car, the cool air from the air-conditioned interiors washing over her face, and making the heat over the rest of her seem more intense. And at the suited gentleman sitting in the plush surroundings better than the heaven ever imagined by her. The miserable state she was in hit her with more force than the truck that had taken away her arm. The smile vanished.
The light turned green - for some. And red for the others.
49 years old Lalit Mohan Wig from New Delhi is a B.Tech and involved with Construction industry. His interests include traveling, architecture, reading and of course writing.
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