A collection of things I see while on Mumbai streets...
His face is an image burned into me by my own anger and helplessness. It was a feeling I find difficult to explain, but perhaps you have felt it, perhaps you saw him too, perhaps you have seen people like him…
He was a small, rich old man, with white hair and a perpetual frown. It seemed his nature to be at war with the economic world, greed and apathy marinating the air around him. He was driving a fancy car down the roads of Mumbai, near Metro Cinema. I was on the other side of the road, coming home from school in an ordinary taxi. The traffic was slow and grueling.
There, wheeling a cart of glass plates and cups on the side of the road, in front of the resentful old man, was a small, thin, shabbily dressed young boy, sweating beneath the Mumbai heat.
The traffic began moving slowly at an almost painful pace; with it did the old man in his large empty car. He drove ahead, and as he turned the corner, knocked over the young boy with the plates.That boy’s livelihood now lay sprawled on the sidewalk, shattered and irreparable; the young boy himself seemed panic stricken and terrified. I watched to see the old man’s reaction. He seemed angry rather than guilt ridden, and though the traffic had forced him to halt his car less than half a foot away from the devastated boy, he didn’t even spare a glance in his direction.
I watched, desperately clinging on to the hope that the old man would get out of his car and at least apologies to the boy…it was heart wrenching to the boy scrambling on the footpath, and the old man driving away. This old man, who had saturated all wealth and success he possibly could, could not spend half the amount he would on his daughter’s shopping trip, on a poor boy he had single handedly ruined. For all his wealth he had lost his humility.
Not a soul stopped to help the boy, or came up to him off the side walk to offer a hand, but then again…neither did I. Contemplating all that we had studied in leadership programs and morel studies in school; I could not muster up the courage to ask the taxi driver to stop the car and help the boy pick up the broken glass of the ground. The last thing I remember before we drove off away from the scene was the taxi driver grunting and saying softly in Hindi, “Look at that rich filth, he never even bothered to look over his shoulder…”
Right now, I can simply imagine the hundreds of people who saw the same scene out there, and helplessly shook their heads. I sometimes contemplate what I could have done as a student. Could I have helped him pick the pieces of glass from the side walk? Tried to speek to the old man? Or would my interference simply have caused more chaos. I really do wonder. It will, however, remain as simpy that- a silent thought of 'what if'. It will always be the one road I regret not taking.