Walking along the beach has been my favorite past time turned routine for the last many years. Time went blazing past my young adolescent fantasies and replaced them with responsibilities and wisdom,or so I would like to think. However my walking along the beach ritual continued.
I spent a large part of the walk people-watching and trying to imagine their personalities,conjuring their life experiences,building their life stories in the few minutes that I see them and walk past them.Today, I was taking my kids out for a stroll. I wanted them to experience what I did during my walks, hoping it would enrich their creativity, that the televisions and video games were hell bent on destroying. The ice cream shops along the way caught their attention and we took a brief recess from walking to get some ice cream.
As I came out of the ice cream shop, I could not help but notice a string of beggars sitting along the sidewalk. There was perfect symmetry in the way they were sitting. It was very territorial too. They all had a mat strewn on which they sat and a small hollow cylinder which had once housed items from instant noodles to baby food to collect other people’s hard earned money.
I walked towards them trying to make up their stories in my short movie, when I found myself stuck in a writer’s block. I could not make up their characters in my mind. It was as though my elite mind refused to let a dirty beggar inside my script. My thoughts were interrupted as I heard my daughters fighting for each other’s ice creams. Kids! how they always fight for the things they don’t have. As I thought that, I was not sure if it was just the kids who did that.
We crossed the beggars and I saw the person ahead of me drop two pennies in one of the hollow cylinders. The clunking sound was too clear since they were so few and far in between. I was now conscious of the many pairs of eyes looking at me wondering if I was going to follow suit . I shied away from looking at their eyes. As I was about to cross them by and look for new characters to fill my creative canvas, I saw one of the beggars taking a coin from his booty and giving it to the one sitting next to him. He found that he had no need for two coins when his friend had none.
I looked at my little girls fighting over a piece of orange ice cream and could not help feeling small. All of us , wallet hugging folks walking across the beggars refusing to acknowledge their presence seemed tiny in contrast to the perfectly aligned line of beggars . I was not so sure if they deserved to be called that as my writer’s block faded away.