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Opinion » musings

Posted at: Jul 14, 2017, 12:52 AM; last updated: Jul 14, 2017, 12:52 AM (IST)

A rotten apple & some happiness

Shantnu Tandon
A rotten apple & some happiness
I WAS in Lucknow and India was in the midst of historic demonetisation. People had money but were finding it difficult to buy their material needs. I was on the streets hungry and cashless. I entered a restaurant, but they were not ‘cashless’ yet. Hunger was pushing me to despair. Luckily, I found an ATM with a handful of people lined up. A few minutes later I was cherishing my prized possession, my first ‘purple’ note. I went back to the restaurant, only to be told they didn’t have change.

Disappointed, I was on the road again, dotted with eateries. I asked the owner of a small eatery if he would feed me, sheepishly showing him the note. To my pleasant surprise, he took the avatar of Annapurna and welcomed me, ‘Sir, don’t worry, you have food. I’ll get it exchanged.’ I was utterly grateful.

It was a humble but clean eatery with only three-four tables. I ordered the most expensive dish, hoping to compensate for the restaurateur’s gesture. But still the bill was less than Rs 200. I started eating happily. There were two-three adolescent waiters, enthusiastically serving the guests with youthful energy. But their eyes were sad.

After a while, I saw one of the boys bringing something from the street. He hurried inside trying to hide it from the owner’s gaze. It was a half-rotten apple. As soon as he reached the rear of the eatery, he quickly ate it.

Did his parents ever feed him affectionately with their hands? Did he ever go to school? He was working day and night, just to survive. I had a strong urge to give him a parental hug. More than money or food, he must be craving for some love. How often this soul was made to feel loved? I was moved beyond words.

After eating, I paid and got the change. The boys were busy serving and did not hover around for the tip. I wanted to give, but only a reasonable amount, not wanting to make them feel small by over-giving. I left with a resolve to come back.

It was not about money, it was about making them know someone was thinking about them. In the evening, I ate at a place which accepted online payment. I had not forgotten the boy. I wondered if I could buy some happiness for us both. I bought a few chocolates and went back. It was dark and the owner was busy with the evening rush. I peeped inside, but could not find ‘my boys’. I asked the owner, who called out for them. 

My heart skipped a beat in excitement. The boys came out a bit surprised. I offered them a chocolate each, gave them a quick hug and left.  They took it with a sheepish grin and hurried inside clutching it in their hands.

On my way back, I asked an old man pulling a rickshaw if he would like a chocolate. He grinned, exposing an almost toothless mouth. I gifted chocolates to random people on the street, toiling to survive honorably.

And yes, I did ‘buy’ some happiness that evening.

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