By Life Positive
Why is it that in loving my family so much, I do not have the time to love others?” Charlie asked himself while sitting alone on a weather-beaten bench in his upmarket neighbourhood park. He was observing over a dozen urchins playing and dancing in the rain, trampling on the mud and wet grass of the park with gay abandon.
Suddenly, the old man folded his umbrella, and allowed the soft rain to embrace him. He lapsed into a reminiscence of his terrible past, days of penury and deep struggle. He recalled how a sugarcane juicewala, a painter and a cycle puncture-maker had helped him with frequent doles of small but vital sums of money, so that he might continue his education. Sometimes, he had to sit with the juicewala and wait for an hour until a customer came and bought a glass of juice. Then, he would get an eight anna coin to survive for the day. God was kind to him, and he became the proud owner of a business. As he rose in his career, he never forgot those who had helped him reach there. Today, he calculated his fortune and the quantum of blessings that the Almighty had poured upon him. How many times had he taken his children, and now his grandchildren, to high-end restaurants where he had blown away money like paper, to let them enjoy expensive delicacies and related fun activities? “Well, that is not a sin, but….” he whispered, and felt a strong current of guilt coursing through his heart and mind. He remembered his younger days, when he had valued the eight anna coin more than his car today. He also recalled a research study on the negative effect of fast food on rich kids, which he had read recently.
Why rich kids? Because those who badly need fats and carbohydrates, do not have the means to eat even a bowl of rice and vegetables twice a day, and those who do not, are burdened with the problem of plenty.
The thin, agile figures of the playing street children, their painful but natural smiles, connected Charlie to his original self so powerfully that, defying his weak frame, he sprang up from the bench, and walked briskly towards them. The urchins turned silent on seeing him coming, fearing a shout or a slap of rebuke for playing in the park. The old man stood in front of them for some time like a Sphinx. After a few moments of dramatic, severe and tense silence, Charlie screamed like a little boy, “Can I play with you?”
Half an hour later, all the eyes of the staff and the guests at a Saket-based McDonald’s reataurant were on the same kids. Chaperoned by Charlie, they had just entered, making the shiny floor slightly wet. The unit manager rushed towards the old man. “Who are they, Sir?,” he asked. “They are my other grandsons,” Charlie said with a fabulous smile. Then, he turned towards the cashier and commanded, “Take their order!”
The children happily, hungrily, placed orders for 15 jumbo combo burgers, and left no seats empty. Staring at the kids from a corner, Charlie, for the first time, the true purpose of life as a human being. The joy – celestial in beauty, earthy in nature – overwhelmed him for a few moments, and he feared collapsing due to its intensity. Small rivulets of tears scaled down his cheeks gently.
“Food is beautiful when it is shared,” Charlie told the staff and some of the guests, who all looked inspired by this extraordinary yet simple act performed by this old man with fallen teeth.
-Anwar Huda, New Delhi
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