(Third and concluding part of Landmark. Day 10 of BlogChatterA2Z)
I was angry, upset, and frustrated.
“Maybe, as a last ditch effort, when the beggar is asleep I will cut the chain, take the desk, and throw it in the nearby lake. With the desk gone, the beggar will hesitate to stay in the footpath. Am I not being too harsh on a poor beggar? But, what will a beggar lose anyway. Even after the loss of the desk he will remain a beggar. Rather, with his desk gone he will seriously think of going to the Rehabilitation Center. But, will I be able to do it alone? I need a partner in crime. At least for moral support.”
Chandu was the obvious choice. I knew many of his secrets. He was the one who had once taken me to a whore house. I was unmarried and stayed alone in a small studio house two streets away. Chandu lived with his family in the same street.
I called him inside my shop and explained the plan. He listened to me patiently but was reluctant to join me. He tried to dissuade me.
“Seems, you have developed a soft corner for the beggar. By the way, did he finance your night adventure last time?” I chided. Then I added, “I was just kidding. Don’t mind. After our mission is over we will have a big bash. A complete night out starting from the Bar to your favourite bitch. All expenses taken care of.”
“No, no, no. I don’t need that. As a friend if I can’t help you this much, what are friends for. I was only worried that the plan might misfire,” said Chandu. “Now, listen carefully. We will execute the plan between three and five because that is the time people slept the soundest.
Happy that my strategy to make Chandu help in my mission had succeeded, I prepared to pull down the shutters humming the tune of a happy man. Chandu usually followed the opening hours of the Bar nearby and closed his shop one hour after I downed my shutters. That day he shut his shop one hour earlier and came to join me on my walk back home so that we could work out the details of the plan on the way.
My studio house was on the second floor of a cluster of old houses with a big court yard. After dinner I set my alarm to three. That night sleep eluded me. By the time the alarm rang I was already awake to put it off.
I waited for Chandu to show up. I paced out of my room onto the balcony that overlooked the street and came back. I lost count of the number of times I paced out and in. It was four but, there was no sign of Chandu. There was no way to confirm. Those were the days when cell phones were not conceived of. I did not know where exactly he stayed. Even though he came to my house so often, he always avoided when I expressed my interest to go to his house.
“That … has ditched me”. I cursed myself for depending on such a fellow. “Let me not waste time waiting for that ….. .”
Covering myself with a big black shawl I started out on my mission. Reaching the place, I was surprised and jubilant to see that the beggar was missing from his post. He must have gone near the lake for his morning rituals, I thought. Still I looked around to see if the beggar or anybody was around. The light bulb attached to electric pole had fused off a few days back. On such a damp and cold night it was unlikely that even a casual visitor would be found on the streets. The policemen and the chowkidars on the errand must be dozing somewhere, I thought . All in all, the signs were favourble. I soared in joy when I did not find much difficulty in cutting the chain to free the desk.
But, the desk was heavier than I had expected. So, at the street corner I put it down to take a break. It was then that I saw or imagined seeing someone coming from a distance. After two more shops there was a staircase. I moved there quickly to hide.
Hiding myself behind the staircase as I palpitated, a million possibilities flashed through my mind. How come I had forgotten that for any damage to the beggar or his property, I would be the first suspect. When I remembered that the beggar was a leader and well connected, I had a scary vision. A crowd of beggars had gathered in front of my shop shouting slogans, Sameer hai hai and demanding my arrest. Next, I was being carried in a police van. I was so engrossed in this scary vision, I did not realize I was perspiring even though it was such a cold night.
What was I to do now? I came out of my hiding and peeped out to look around the street. Actually there was no one around. Without hesitation I lifted the desk, ran back to where it was, put it down and hurried back home.
Next day I opened the shop as usual and acted as if nothing had happened. Chandu also came as usual and acted as if nothing had happened. The beggar sat as usual in his yogic posture. Now, binding his desk to the electric pole was a brand new chain.
Chandu came after lunch time inside my shop, apology writ large oh his face. Before he said anything I dismissed him saying I had some urgent accounting job to do.
After this failed attempt, when I accepted that it was beyond human capacity to rehabilitate or evict him, a great sense of relief dawned on me. Since then both of us continued to have a peaceful coexistence. As a friendly gesture, sometimes, I would be his first donor of the day. But the beggar did not evince any thankfulness and continued to show his indignation if I dropped the offering without due reverence.
The assistant came in the evening again. “Is the manager too much upset?”, I asked.
He looked at me but did not answer my question. “You know Sir”, I continued, “I am not so serious about the loan”.
“But we are. By the way I came here to buy a packet of condoms.” After pocketing a packet of condoms and giving a contemptuous look at the beggar, he left.
At ten ‘O’ clock in the night when I was going to close the shop, I noticed a small police van followed by a large white van pulling in. Big bold beautiful pink alphabets, that read ‘Rehabilitation Anonymous Bangalore” adorned the sides of the white van.
The policemen did not get down. But two volunteers, who looked more like bouncers of a night club, got down from the van. They came to the beggar and one of them said in an authoritative voice, “Come with us. Be quick.”
The beggar looked perplexed. One of the volunteers asked politely to open the lock and unchain the desk. He sensed the veiled threat and obliged. The volunteer carried the desk and the begging bowl inside the van. He had no option but to follow.
He was about to board the van with hesitant steps when a man sitting inside said in a loud jovial voice, “Oye Sir, you don’t worry. We are here to uplift people”. The volunteers lifted him up and got him seated inside. Carrying the landmark, the white van sped away out of sight.