Office work was a breeze today, so Pranjal completed whatever remained and took half a day off. He had to go somewhere. He got up from his desk, collected his belongings, stuffed them in a bag and walked towards the elevator. His brain was always organized. He was always clear about what he was going to do next. He had decided that he was going to take a bus. The distance from the office to the nearest stop was not more than a hundred meters. Soon, he was walking on his way on a two-way road. He walked on the left side. He walked looking around. Soon his gaze shifted to the other side of the road. And then, for the first time, he noticed him.
He was a beggar, not more than twenty feet from where Pranjal was. The beggar was walking, or rather trying to walk. He was disabled. It was polio, probably. With great difficulty, and by taking the support of a stick, he limped. His clothes were tattered and his face was bruised. Years of neglect had rendered his skin coarse and his hair rough. He smelled like a sewer, which was evident from the way everybody was getting out of his way. He continued to limp, quietly. Pranjal was fascinated by the way he walked. He found it interesting.
First, he put his stick on the ground, and then propelled himself to step further ahead. It was early afternoon and the road wasn’t busy. Pranjal could easily hear the sound he made. The stick struck the ground with a ‘tuck’ sound, and as he pulled his body, the sound changed to a ‘thump’.
Tuck-thump, Tuck-thump, Tuck-thump. Pranjal was spellbound. He could hear nothing but the ‘tuck’ and the ‘thump’. He was walking slowly now, completely engrossed in observing the beggar. After walking about a hundred yards, the beggar stopped at a food stall. Pranjal stopped as well but kept his gaze fixed on him. The beggar bought a cheap meal for fifteen bucks and with great hardship, tried to sit on the pavement. He slowly lifted his stick from the ground, but lost balance and fell down. All his food fell with him. Rather than coming to his aid, the stall owner shouted at him.
Pranjal, who had been a mute observer till now, walked up to the scene. The beggar looked up, but couldn’t see his face, for the sun was shining directly above him. He took out a note of 500 from his pocket, and gave it to the beggar, smiling.
He paid another hundred to the stall owner and bought him a better meal. Then, without saying a word, he walked away. Bemused, the beggar could only look at the back of this strange person who had given him 500 bucks for no reason.
As Pranjal walked, something sinister cooked up in his brain. His smiling face had contorted into something else entirely, while his eyes burned with indignation.
Walking in stride, he soon reached the bus stop.