The train was standing on the platform no. twenty one of Howrah station, one of the
Kolkata’s railway terminals. The place is always brimming with people coming and
going in all directions, of coolies bearing mountains of cases and packages, of
vendors offering every conceivable sort of merchandise.
Suchetna walked towards the train with heavy baggage. She was all alone and was in
a rush to reach her hostel well in time. All of a sudden a boy, around ten years in age,
appeared from nowhere and stood beside her.
“Didi, I have eaten nothing since yesterday” the young boy pleaded.
At first, Suchetna snubbed his appeal but after constant imploring she took out a ten
rupees note from her purse and gave it to the boy. The boy looked at the money
greedily and didn’t even bother to thank her. He hopped away merrily towards the
nearby coffee-stall and asked for a Coke. Already angered by the absence of propriety
in the boy, she was left shocked by the beggar’s lavish purchase.
“I shouldn’t have fallen for the boy’s trick.” she murmured to herself.
The train left the platform in a short while, all the passengers settling into their
respective seats. She was tired and dozed off leaning on the window. Suddenly the
clammering of loudspeakers waked her up. She peeped out of the window to confirm
the name of the station. Salboni.
It was like a competition to see who could make the most noise. A horde of shouting
vendors surrounded her with ballpoint pens, sweetmeats, and thousands of such
A bent old woman, as wrinkled as a walnut, with torn clothes on, shabby graying
hair, a long scar reminiscent of some old wound adorning her face, presented herself
at the window.
“Beti, we have eaten nothing since yesterday” the old woman prayed.
Suchetna cast an angry glance at the woman and looked away quickly.
“Bloody frauds,” she cursed under her breath, “I am not falling for such staged
helplessness anymore. Ungrateful rascals, all of them!”
The sick looking kid in the old lady’s arms stared at Suchetna with his dull,
malnourished eyes. His marasmused abdomen shone prominently in the unusually
dark tan of his coarse skin.
Suchetna found her heart melting away but then she warned herself, “Benevolence is
for the ones who actually need it. Not for these trained professional frauds.”
But, her indifference didn’t seem to have any consequence. The old lady was too
insistent on staying put to give up.
She repeated her pleading, “Beti, at least have some mercy on the child!”
Her conscience was forcing her to go ahead with the humanitarian engagement but
her cautious mind seemed to override her conscience.
The guard’s whistle signaled the impending departure of the train.
Disappointment played hide-and-seek on the face of the old lady. Her hope for a last
minute decision change proved futile, as the train raced away, gaining momentum
Suchetna took a deep sigh of relief as the train advanced further. And with the old
lady disappearing into a distance, her embarrassment too seemed to go away. Thank
god for escapes, she thought.
With her belly burning in hunger, the old lady looked on for some benevolent souls
amongst the passenger who had just got down. Stopping meant sleeping on an empty
stomach again – for her, as well as for the child!
This story basically shows the human psychology. The experience of Suchetna with beggars of two different types has challenged her conscience. This story illustrates her experience and urge the readers to be in her place while reading this piece.