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The Hungry Beggar

Ravi loves writing within the realm of relationships, history, and the bizarre—where boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense.

The Beggar

“Sahib, I am very hungry. Do you have something to eat?”

I looked back and saw a sickly, crippled beggar pleading at me with folded hands. A face caked with grime, hollowed eyes, and a tattered t-shirt, he looked like the hundreds of beggars eking out a difficult existence within the notorious underbelly of New Delhi, the political capital of India. He was sitting on an ornate pavement in Janpath, a small secluded cul-de-sac just a stone throw away from the majestic Indian Parliament house.

“Here, take this,” I said passing to him an unopened packet of croissants which I found deep within my oversized artist bag hidden under a cornucopia of paints, brushes, and easels. I am a painter by profession and was just returning after completing a painting commissioned by the Indian Parliament for the new banquet hall newly opened for visiting dignitaries at Block G of the complex.

“Thank you, sahib,” he said gratefully, wolfing down the croissants at the speed of light. I was about to leave when he asked,

"You are a painter sahib? I also used to be a painter," he said proudly.

“Is it? And what is that you used to paint?” I asked, barely able to hide the disdain from my voice.

The Beggar Tells His Story

The Beggar Tells His Story

The Beggar Tells His Story

“I was a hoarding painter sahib. I used to paint posters of movies, film stars, and even advertisements. Every day I used to climb up the high scaffoldings, perching myself out there, and paint my heart out the whole day. I have done hundreds of paintings sahib,” he said in a voice, quivering with reminiscences of a bygone era

“Then one day,” he continued, “I had an accident, I fell from a high scaffolding. I was in a coma for twenty days and when I came to my senses, my legs had been amputated. There were others-young sturdy painters, who can climb up and do the work faster. Nobody wanted to give work to a cripple and I resorted to begging to live.”

“Can you show me some samples of your paintings?” I asked, my voice thick with emotion. “I might be able to get some work for you.”

“Thank you, sahib. May God bless you,” he said as he showed me a well-thumbed album from his worn-out gunny sack. “My style of work is more like Amrita Sher-Gil. I believe she is the only Indian artist who combines Indian aesthetics with the painting styles of Europe”

"I do not agree with you," I said, slightly miffed. “While Amrita Sher-Gil was good, she was nowhere near the genius of Akbar Padamsee who had pioneered a painting revolution combining Indian traditional and modern styles.”

“No Sahib,” he argued "Akbar was very repetitive. His paintings can never match the vibrancy of Amrita. The lady talks through her paintings.”

And thus began our creative argument. To any onlooker, it would have appeared a strange scene indeed; two people gesticulating wildly and arguing in a public place and one of them a beggar in tattered clothes. One hour passed by as we dissected everything from Indian painters, and Italian painters to the brilliance of the Sistine chapel painted by the great Michelangelo.

A Change Comes Over the Beggar

A Change Comes Over the Beggar

A Change Comes Over the Beggar

“Hey, it is 7 pm already. It is time for me to go,” I said as the distant Metro house clock tower boomed sonorously breaking our discussion.

“Yes, it is time now,” he said, as a sudden transformation comes over his visage.

The weakly, pitiable beggar metamorphosed before my very eyes into a man with steely eyes, rock-solid resolute, and remarkable agility. The cripple was gone and the man standing before me belonged to a different kettle of fish altogether.

“Here, take, this envelope,” he said, shoving it into my hands. “Go to the nearest police station and hand it over. They will know what to do.”

“But,” I stammered,

“Go, don’t waste time,” as he vanished under the clump of trees surrounding the area.

I did what I was told and walked back to my house in a daze. I could not sleep that night as a thousand unanswered questions tormented my over-imaginative mind. Who was that beggar? Why did he behave so strangely? Why did he ask me to contact the police? Did I get involved in something illegal?

The next day, I got my answer in the morning newspaper.

Terrorist Plot to Attack Indian Parliament Foiled

6th Sep – 2022- A plot hatched by the AL-Qaeda terrorists to storm the Indian Parliament was foiled by the Indian special forces yesterday in the early evening hours. The terrorists, six in number, holed up in an area called Janpath were armed with machine guns, hand grenades, and assault rifles.

The special forces unit led by Captain Vikram Awasthi launched a counter-assault on the terrorists catching them by surprise. Heavy gunfire followed in which all six terrorists were gunned down.

A large cache of arms along with fake passports has been recovered from the terrorists. It is believed that the terror group had been planning such an attack for a long time and were reconnoitering the Parliament house for the past six months.

More details on page 6….

© 2022 Ravi Rajan

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