The lady in white

Pigeons eating pizza.

I saw a poor homeless lady being pushed around in downtown last summer. She seemed to linger on the pavement beside my apartment building and sometimes in the afternoon and evenings she would park herself at the intersection of two roads a block away from my apartment. She wore disheveled clothes, had a permanent frown, her rag blonde hair was dry and matted due to lack of proper hygiene and care. Well for those people who have to think of each day as a struggle for survival , grooming is the last thing that might come to their minds. She was pushed around by a stout friend of hers who had a curly beard and wore baggy camouflage pants with a grey jacket which they might have collected from the goodwill a few miles away from downtown on Michigan avenue. Once when I was going to the gym I saw her fighting fiercely with him over something which I assumed was money or food. It could have been anything but since they were poor I thought it had to be either of the two. After the initial slandering at the top of their voices and threats to do bodily harm to each other, the vocal and physically strong one slammed a box full of Chinese food on the lady. She could not get up, poor lady was glued to her wheelchair and was hurling the choicest expletives on him. It was a wild sight to be seen in downtown amongst a sea of professionals who take quick strolls from one building to the other perhaps attending meetings or mid work recreation. A few days later I saw the familiar pair of the wheelchair bound lady and her friend enjoying the summer air and drawing easy draughts from their cigarettes. I pitied them, how could people like us not have compassion and overlook such misery. I wanted to help them as I have helped others , I bought a girl a pizza one day and she still waves at me whenever she sees me walking around. But I was skeptical about their volatile temperament. I did not know if they were mentally stable and I am obviously not ready for any expletives to be hurled at me for no reason, my self respect matters a lot to me. I don't owe anyone anything hence I do not need to be at the receiving end of any unstable person's foul mouth.

Jazz festival this year.

It was June, peak summer and there was a flurry of activity and events in downtown. Every weekend there would be some festival or the other. Once there was a garlic festival, then came the summer in the park and after that the ever popular jazz festival . Jazz weekend is one of the most popular music festivals in Michigan and draws a lot of crowd. There is a bevy of activity, many artists , homegrown and international perform. The entire town is converted into a fair ground. I decided to enjoy the summertime craze and set out on an exploratory stroll to listen to music , look at people and of course to see if there is anything to indulge my taste buds in, all my major senses sight, sound and taste and invariably olfactory were to have a feast that day. The next block from my apartment was converted into a makeshift but sturdy stage. It was one of the many stages but was the main one. People came with their collapsible chairs and booze to enjoy the show. Some of them stood on the pavement or just made themselves comfortable on the concrete to watch their favorite artist playing. A few of them found comfortable space under the shade of trees that line the boundary of a parking lot beside the pavement. I walked towards the stage from my apartment, imbibing the festivity and happiness that pervaded the air that day. I thought of walking past the stage to see more, therefore I decided to turn left and cross the road. As I was waiting to cross the road after taking left, lo behold!!!! I saw the lady in the wheelchair enjoying the performance with a cigarette lodged between her fingers stylishly , except that she was not on a wheelchair, she was standing, swaying and enjoying her drag. She was not shabbily dressed that day although her hair was the same rag doll like , she was perfectly fine physically, swinging to the beat of the music and enjoying the summer air. Our eyes met briefly as I waited to cross the road. My eyes had a look of surprise which she must have noticed and she reciprocated by giving me an oblivious look as if she had never seen me before. She went back to being in a happy state enjoying the blues and the swing. The lights had then turned red and it was my turn then to cross the road, the music in the background concluded with the usual fast drumming and the progression of the guitars. It served a context to my conclusion and the revelation I had that day. Well I guess it is her strategy for survival. Who are we to judge , we just move on. I walked to the other side of the street to explore more of the festival and lose myself in a sea of half drunk people.


Jai said…
I often come across beggars in India. Once I saw one chap who pretended to be a beggar very realistically complete with a walking stick and I dropped a few coins into his palms. Later when I got down at my destination I found him with a group of other people smoking a beedi with eyes wide open and chatting nineteen to the dozen. Initially I was very indignant but later, just like you, I concluded that I was nobody to judge and it was his way of surviving in this world.
Jenevi said…
You are right. We may never know the circumstances that might have led him to panhandle for survival.