A layer of glass that is so transparent is, yet opaque enough to separate two completely different worlds- The Poor and the Well-off. We live in a world virtually so well-connected, yet emotionally so far apart, so vibrant, yet so indifferent.
Sitting in a restaurant, I caught a glimpse of a poor young girl, not more than five, staring into the transparent glass shielding the place, watching the guests enjoying their meal, probably hoping to have something for herself. While she looked through, numerous guests began to take notice of her. One of them complained to the manager trying to convince him to get rid of her.
I was certain that the manager would scoff her away. To my surprise, he brought her in and seated her at a table along with himself. This made the guests even more uncomfortable. The man who had earlier complained about her was furious and he threatened the manager, ‘I’ll report this to the owner.’
“I am hungry”, she began to cry, the fear of the angry man palpable on her face. The manager tapped her shoulder and said, “Beta, you don’t need to be scared. You can eat as much as you like. I am Mukesh, what is your name?”
By now everybody had paused their eating and drinking. All guests gave their undivided attention to the girl who had, by now, calmed down. The angry man felt isolated since no one shared his concerns, or at least didn’t display it. He calmed back down in his place digging himself into his food to avoid embarrassment.
“I am Alisha”, she squealed wiping the tears from her eyes.
“What would you like to have?”
“Anything you provide.”
He asked a waiter to bring a few gulabjamuns and then a full plate of lunch. Her eyes lit up as soon as she heard it.
“Where is your home?” he asked her. She fell silent again.
“Your ma and papa?”
“Papa works in a factory. He lost his job a month ago. He has gone in search of some work.”
She ate the two gulabjamuns, one at a time smiling while the guests stared at her.
“She has been ill for a few days. She works as a maid”, she lamented. She ate the food like a baby starved of milk, smiling at us occasionally, her surprise and shock so palpable on her face.
After finishing, she turned towards the angry man, who eyes were trained on his dishes, and said, “Chacha, I am sorry if I made you angry.”
He looked up at her trying to decide what to do. Then he looked around. He could feel the gaze of the people focused on him, awaiting his reaction. He left his seat and walked up to her. He was trying his best not to portray any emotions but his eyes betrayed him.
He embraced her. She hugged him tightly. As the guests applauded, he paid his bills and let himself out avoiding their view.
The manager gave her a package of food for her parents. He received a thunderous applause from the people who were now discussing this in murmurs. She hugged him tightly, tears rolling down her cheeks, thanking him for his kindness and ran out.
I couldn’t help but notice, through the same glass, her waning into the same indifferent crowd, edging her way forward through people trying best to resist any proximity to her. Many guests offered to pay her bills but the manager reluctantly declined. He told them, he had a daughter of about the same age. Everybody had a few good words for the man. People were taking selfies with him. He became a source of inspiration for all of us.
Every now and then, we come across many such incidents. Sometimes, we notice. Often times, we chose not to. We may choose to forget the incident, but it has a lasting impact on us.
All the guests there in the restaurant would most definitely be reminded of the human gesture to which they were a witness when they come across such a situation anytime here on. It is an experience that will subconsciously inform their decisions, which in the future might be worth cherishing for other people.
What is far more significant is how these gestures impact our personality involuntarily. A few human gestures here and there is all that is required to connect with people whom we call “strangers”. It makes us more compassionate and re-affirms our faith in mankind.