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I am a strong believer of God, not of religion. For me, religion is just a set of rules, that were made for us to believe in an unknown entity called God.
This is one of the reasons, that I do not go to the temple very frequently. Other reasons are lack of interest in religious rituals and laziness. So my visits to temple are restricted to occasions like birthdays and festivals.
It was one such occasion that I visited a temple nearby.
Temple doors were closed so I decided to wait outside. Pan-handlers or beggars approaching you near temples is not an uncommon sight. This is another reason that makes my temple visits so infrequent.
I cannot handle the feeling of not being able to help anyone and have always wondered that, “how much help is enough help”.
Moreover, I have my suspicions whether I am helping a genuine person or not.
Anyhow, as I waited outside the temple, two kids approached me. They were dressed in dirty uniform which clearly was also given to them as charity by someone. They indicated that they were hungry and wanted some money to buy food. I had no intentions to fall prey and replied, “I will give after puja”.
They didn’t try to create any fuss over my response and I thought I had escaped.
After some more wait, temple gates were opened by the priest and I joined the queue of devotees. It took me another 30 mins to complete all the rituals and come out of the temple.
And I saw, the two kids, from whom I had cleverly escaped, waiting patiently for me.
They looked at me with a broad smile and said, “Didi, khana nahi khaya hai”. Not knowing what to do next, I tried another attempt of escape. I looked around and not seeing any food joint in immediate vicinity, I replied, “kya khana hai?”.
The elder kid immediately replied, “Vada”. I was surprised and he was delighted. His eyes were bright with anticipation and the thought of getting “Vada” to eat.
I also decided not give up and asked him to take me to the “Vada” shop. He warned me that I will have to walk a little and I agreed.
After 2 minutes of walk, I started smelling “hot Vadas” being fried somewhere. Soon we reached the shop. As the two kids approached, shopkeeper gave them a disgusted look. It was evident that they had approached the shopkeeper many times for food and were disappointed. The elder kid proudly said, “two plate Vada” and I repeated, “Bhaiya two plate vada dena dono ko”.
The owner of the shop who was oblivious to my presence till now, was surprised to see me talking for the two kids. Other customers at the shop, who were savouring their snacks were also genuinely surprised and the kids became the centre of attraction.
I could read the curious eyes of everybody around. I saw mixed expressions of, shock, surprise and guilt. And I felt like a hero.
I took out twenty rupees from my wallet and paid the Vada shop owner. The boys were extremely happy and so was I. It was my moment of triumph and I was their saviour.
We walked back together as best friends and as I was about to enter the car, I heard a frail voice. I turned around and saw a old lady asking me for help.
My feeling of triumph vanished and I said to myself, “Oh God, I am stuck, why did I even help those two boys”. Old lady wanted some money and the boys were translating her request to me. Feeling helpless, I said, “nahi hai amma”. She said, “coin??”. Feeling frustrated now, I replied, “coin bhi nahi hai”.
The elder of the kids, looked at me and said, “Didi ap jao”. He was not angry at me. His voice was reassuring. And then he opened his vada packet and gave one vada to the old lady.
I was taken over with a wave of guilt and shouted “Stop”, opened my wallet and gave twenty rupees to the old lady.
I got into my car and drove off, with a strange feeling, “I was not the saviour, the young boy was”.