It was yesterday. I was on my way back to my pad on a bus on Delhi’s busy ring road. Preoccupied with thoughts the origin of which I will never know, I was sitting by the window on one of the “ladies”-seat. i had almost started enjoying the humidity( you see, you don’t have a choice!), when we reached Sarai Kale Khan bus stand. As the bus slowed down to a halt, I was shaken out of my inner cosmos by a commotion near the door: the bus conductor was helping a man get down the bus, assisted by a passenger sitting near the door. At first I thought he must be helping some differently-abled person. But then I realized it was something else. The guy they were helping was so weak, he could not even stand on his own, leave alone walk. I was wondering how he got onto the bus. The conductor was helping him get down, with face all smiles, pride glowing in his eyes with an unsaid “oh! See people I’m helping him, am so good, so chivalrous!” I heard him say “ tuney hi isse bithaya tha”, to which the other man replied, “jaldi utaro, lene ke dene pad jayenge”.
They got him down and seated him on the pavement. It was only then that I saw him clearly, all weak and with only one slipper to walk on. He must have been about 60-65. Very thin and sinewy, the cloth of his pants failed to flatter his thin legs and I wondered if they had any flesh covering the bones. I could not help pitying him.
But all this while, I was a mute spectator. I wanted to ask the conductor if this was exactly the very stop where he wanted to get down. Ideally (that is, if I had listened to the little voice inside), I should have got down, asked him if he needed any help, asked where he was going, or may be, bought him something to eat or drink or better still, taken him to a hospital, informed his folks, DID SOMETHING, DID ANYTHING . I should have…would have…could have….but didn’t. I played the perfect mute spectator whom I so detest. I gave in to the lower self. Shall I add the best line here? “I am only human”- the ridiculously effective excuse. I really can’t help worrying and thinking what must have become of him, whether he reached home safely or not. I know it’s no use showing (shall I dare say) pretentious care.
It still hurts; no, it feels funny the way my conscience pricks me. All this while, I had been trying to pacify it. But it still rebukes me, my conscience. It’s mortifying to my self-importance, the self-righteous me to realize I am only part of the dirty pack, the filth which fills the world. No amount of reading good books, no religious hymns, no lengths of spiritual discourses is going to redeem me. It really needs relentless courage to do good, to be good. And I have none. I seek no redemption. With my tail between my legs, I admit, I AM NOT GOOD.