“Odhar dekho! (Look there!)”, said the rickshaw driver.
“Oh my God!” I exclaim with shock.
“She must be in so much pain!”
Sadness clouds me as I register that an accident had taken place moments ago.
A sari-clad middle-aged blood-drenched woman is sitting in the middle of the road. Conscious. She is taking out a bottle from her bag with her left hand to pour water on what is remaining of her right hand.
Looking at her desolate state makes me think. How isolated and lonely we are even in the middle of a crowd. Such that, no one is at our help but ourselves even in such dire situations.
Curious onlookers surround her. Some are calling for help on their phones.
“That rich car driver must have driven off”, said this stranger.
I clenched the wrist of my right hand, “She lost a hand, ptcch!”
“At least, she will live”, the stranger retorted.
“She would not have imagined that she will face with an accident today, before leaving her house”, I lament.
“Who will take care of her now? There is no one for the poor. If she is rich, at least, she can go on with life. What about the poor?” questions the concerned stranger.
“Life is so uncertain”, I moan with despair as the traffic moves.
There is a little congestion on the road but there is a certain normalcy about it. Traffic is re-routing itself and business is as usual.
Few meters ahead, at a red light, I feel a pat on my knees and I see a small hand stretched out in front of me begging for money.
It’s a little boy accompanied by a woman with an infant.
She looks young to be this kid’s mother and the infant wrapped around her with a piece of a cloth looks sedated.
I tell the stranger, “You know, begging is illegal and giving money to beggars is illegal too!”
He nods his head in affirmative, “That kid and the infant are hired for begging. The infant is stolen and she is sedated so she does not cry! It is a mafia. The police and the gangs are colluded”
“We all are colluding to it”, I deplore with a stern voice. “We are the silent observers”.
It is a bizarre scene but there is a certain normalcy about it. Our social construct has reduced them to such a place.
Feeling helpless I utter, “There is so much suffering around”.
As the green signal glows, the rickshaw driver pulls the lever in one hard stroke to put the engine to life to take me to my destination.
Few meters ahead, I hear a procession chant, “Ram naam satya hai, satya bolo gatya hai. Ram naam satya hai, satya bolo mukti hai”.
I witness a funeral procession carrying a body of an old man on his last journey to the cremation ground. There is a certain normalcy about it too.
I become numb for a minute. The silence is eerie. No honking on the road. No chattering, only distant sounds.
“Rich or poor, all have the same destiny. No one has come with anything and no one will take anything. All go with empty hands at the end”, the stranger breaks the silence with some wise revelations.
I take few minutes to come out of what I just saw.
I realise that it is only in the face of death we experience life, we recognise life.
My journey with the stranger has ended here. I reach the ferry point for my next journey. The journey to the ‘wisdom island’.
The little boat will take me to Global Pagoda. It is one of the largest Buddhist stupa, situated on a serene island, at the outskirts of the chaotic city of Mumbai.
As I board the ferry, I feel like I am going to a ‘wisdom island’ to solve the mysteries of life.
I am going to stay here for next 10 days in noble silence.
(Only to experience what comes next! TO BE CONTINUED)