The Indifference

October 7, 2012 7:37 pm

This might not be your average article. We have had numerous of those and we have them every other day, in every other newspaper and magazine. Bombings in some part of the world, unprecedented rate of increasing terrorism, kidnappings, robberies and the list goes on. It’s easy to report that. But today, I am going to tell you all a little story that I witnessed myself.

It was a warm, sunny day. I was in the busy streets of the city centre in Liverpool. People were running around in every direction, carrying their bags of shopping, trying to reach the safety of their homes as fast as they could. I was walking on the pavement, just looking around the shops and trying to kill some time. That’s when I heard someone sniff, somewhere at the level of my knees. I stopped dead in my tracks and turned to locate the source of the heart-wrenching sound. What stared back at me, took my breath away. Words can’t do justice to what I felt. It was ineffable pain and sadness.

There was an old man, somewhere around the age of 50, sitting on the cold pavement in threadbare clothes. He had assumed a very awkward, unnatural position. His legs were thrown out in front of him at bizarre angles. His arthritic hands were holding a guitar, with a tin box in front of him consisting of 4 coins. Someone threw a coin at him but it missed the box and landed a little far from him on the pavement. He stretched out his hand and pulled the money to himself. A whimper followed this simple task. The sound lanced through my soul and heart.

I looked around at the people. No one even looked at the man; everyone was busy chatting away on their mobile phones or doing business on their Blackberries. I was amazed at the indifference of the people, who pride themselves on customer service and politeness. A few seconds out of their busy lives to hear this old man out, to pay attention to him, to smile at him wouldn’t result in the apocalypse of their worlds.

I heard him play the guitar for a while. I then thrust my hand in my purse and gave him as many coins as I got in my hand. I smiled at him and he smiled back at me. The smile transformed his painful face into that of a lively person. I saw the life in his eyes and in the wrinkles of his face. He must’ve had a beautiful life with family and friends, just like we do. But somewhere along that path, some drastic or trifle event had brought him here. He thanked me profusely and I moved on.

No matter how much I tried to forget him, he stayed in my mind. It gave me a lot to think about. We can go about living our lives and absorbed in ourselves, but it doesn’t take a second for everything to come crashing down around us and burying us. Then, like the old man, we are left to pick up and polish the tarnished pieces of our happy past and the future that we had dreamt of.

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