lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Invisible people

I stare resolutely ahead, willing the signal to change so the cab can move on. The persistent rapping on the window and the whine go on.

"I see you here every day", I silently tell the woman. "I see you living on the pavement, arguing with other pavement dwellers, bantering with them, cooking your meals on makeshift stoves. I see you everyday, begging at the signals. I see you, I know your life, as much as can be deduced watching from the window of a cab.

"Sometimes, you borrow a child from other women and tell me that the baby is hungry and you can't feed it. I know it is not your baby, because I've seen another woman feeding it just the other day. I see your man working the other lane of traffic, I know he is your man. Why don't you sell something or wipe the windshield and ask for a tip instead of whining that god will be good to me if I gave you alms?"

It is more than embarrassment or discomfiture. What I feel when beggars accost me at traffic lights is impotent fury. I see them every day, they beg from me every day; I know their faces but I am invisible.

It is the same with the scamsters. I see them every day too. They come up to the cars and speak with great urgency. There was a dreadful accident, there is an injured child or woman who needs to be taken to a hospital, can you help? Or somebody needs to buy blood, they say, waving a scrap of official looking pink slip. Day after day, at the same place. I suppose they demarcate their pitches and their share of the traffic. But don't they realise that people commute and that means they are regulars on that route, too? If I were running the accident scam, I'd surely not frequent the same crossing two days running.

Then there are the hesitant ones that come up and whisper that they recently lost their jobs, they are not begging, not really, but they need help. There's the 'I am new to the city, and I was robbed' spiel .

All at the same place, day after day.

One day, perhaps I will say those words aloud to that woman. One day, perhaps the people in the traffic will change from prospects and become real to her. One day, perhaps I won't be invisible to that woman who begs at the traffic lights.



Blogger Φ said...


10:48 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Hey, thanks.

10:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice take. we are the invisible ppl.

1:47 pm  

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