The Beggar - Poem by Vinod Sharma
He could well have been a sadhu -
A flowing beard, a matting mane -
Contemplating mystical zebras
Of life's transient joy and pain.
At a crossing he was instead,
With two extra aluminum legs,
Not to help him cross the road,
But stay put on the tar and beg.
He saw the big black SUV,
Dark-tint windows rolled up right,
Raging to speed past the law,
Forced to halt by the small red light.
In the oasis that he firmly tapped,
The bald man looked the other way,
Animated the delicate woman got,
To Rihanna's beats the little girl swayed.
Seen and heard he had them all:
‘Beggars, beggars, India's blight! '
‘Motherfucker you should go and work! '
‘They make a lot, I feel no plight! '
A little persistence, he had learnt,
In years of numbed humiliation,
Sometimes got their guilt going,
More often it was exasperation.
The power window lowered but just,
Less to slide through a folded tenner
More to push and shut him out
From the forty lakh off-roader.
Relief inside, triumph outside:
A vexing intruder driven away,
Ten bucks pulled with ease again;
At red light crossings poor ain't prey.
Victorious, he broke into a trot
On four good legs and greed and spite,
To catch the next big bad car
Before it roared contempt and might.
No time he spared, much less an eye,
For those on a scooter or motorbike,
Why waste time for just a buck:
Poor small worms, we are all alike.
A burnt mustard salwar kameez
Hung on weathered, withered hide,
She sat quite expressionless,
On the pillion of a forty thousand bike.
Her arm shooting out he did not see,
But in fingers that had struggled much,
A corner caught the five rupee note
For which with practiced speed he lurched.
His eyes but could not look into hers,
And joy deserted his sagely face;
She may have done the SUVs in,
It was he she'd hit hard with a mace.
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