Many years ago I had gone to Mumbai along with a friend. We were there for a 2 day visit. On our path of exploration of the city was Haji Ali mosque. The day we decided to head forward was an auspicious Muslim day, I don’t remember the occasion though. As we started at one end of the road which leads to the mosque, we saw a huge container of sharbat (sweet drink made of flower petals). They were being handed out to everyone. Beggars lined up on the right of the narrow road we walked. Some drinking the cool sharbat, some sitting, some lying down, some in small groups, some alone. A group of 5 beggars laid on the road randomly half naked, chanting “Hai Allah, Hai Allah” (O God, O God). As we walked further more groups seem to chant this, as if asking God for mercy. Some has missing limbs, a hand or a foot. Each step became tougher to take as the number grew larger towards the mosque. I tried avoiding eye contact, it was a pitiful sight. And the huge number just added to its misery. Near the gate my eyes were drawn to a solitary old man sitting motionless facing us. His eyes were half closed. Sage like white hair and beard, seem to defy the gentle wind as it adorned motionless on his face. He was expressionless. The afternoon sun was strong, and I did not see a bead of sweat on his face. “Dead men dont sweat” they say, and I wondered if he was alive (perhaps death would have been sweeter to him). He had no arms and no legs. Rugged and battered clothes clinged to his body as if it’s been there all his life stuck to his skin. A wooden bowl with few coins was placed in front of him. I could not help asking myself what was he living for? Why does he breath the air? What purpose is his life? Yet he had a tranquillity which I could not define.. was it that he had found God, was at the footstep of his messiah, or the sheer acknowledgement of hopelessness I was not sure. My friend had never seen anything like this before, and he was struck with deep grief, and decided to spend the rest of the evening alone in his room.
Fallen Angels they say, suffer the fate of Mankind. Its a curse they say. The way out is salvation, penance, to escape the endless cycle of rebirths, or to have a better judgement day.. and its path is religion, and the belief in a generous forgiving God who knows no Evil.
However Mankind is further divided, those poor, those not, those sick.. those not, the so called have alls and the have nots.. Ask a poor man about his religion, if not money what else can it be, ask the same to a sick man, and yeah its health. It is not a curse to be human, but a curse to be a poor one.
Gandhi had said “Poverty is the worst form of violence”, because the system that makes one set of people rich at the expense of others is really a failed system.
Man has for his calmness brought in religion, God had to be invented, cause its Him who everyone expects to listen, to do justice. The one who knows all. The every loving, all listening, forgiving, generous, judging God is something looks up to. As as much an atheist I might be, if it helps the old man get his peace of mind, I cannot ignore God, even in its virtual sense. I have to respect that.
Mother Teresa once explained “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
My plea to everyone is this. When you make a donation, rather than to a religious group donate to charity, and look for a smaller charity right near your house rather than a big organisation. There could be an orphanage not founded by some religious group which is much more genuine and need much more financial help. There could be an old age home who would love your time, and the small meals you can supply once a while. This is far more important and far more appreciated in the eyes of God (if there exists any), rather than the amount you pour into a temple, a church or anywhere else.
This snap was clicked at Basilica of Bom Jesus, old Goa. As I was existing out of the main service room, a worried man walked passed in a hurry, and rushed to light a candle amidst the hundreds already glowing. The sheer hope with which he lit it showed his trust in Goa, and his speedy solution to his problems. As he placed the lit candle a calmness followed as can be seen in the snap.