I saw this man yesterday being turned away by a sandwich seller, by whose stall I had stopped in Khau Galli (Food Street, near Fashion Street) when hunger pangs had struck after a hair-tearingly hectic day in the office. He was short, bearded, dark, and had hair like a halo around his not unattractive face. Somehow, I had the impression that he is a Malayali. I have given away money and food to such people, unfortunately trapped in the vicious mad race of a teeming and uncaring city, which doesn’t care a mite for its unfortunates, such as the one before me then. People have walked into the newspaper office where I used to work and I have emptied my heart and wallet to their stories. The stories were similar: duped by Persian Gulf recruitment agents, no money to go back, nowhere to sleep. I give them enough money for tickets and food for the way home. I can’t help it; I am impulsive with my money, which may be why I don’t have much.
Looking at him I felt he might be hungry. He was extending a one rupee coin and asking the shop owner for something. Poor chap, I thought, he doesn’t have enough money to buy something to eat! So I took out my wallet and gave a few notes to the vendor and asked him to give him a decent sandwich, “Can’t you see he is hungry?” But he refused. I was indignant and asked him, what the reason was.
“Actually he needs the foil used for wrapping sandwiches to heat his ganja (marijuana). He is not hungry. He is a drug addict.”
That was unexpected. Now I was in a dilemma. I couldn’t decide whether I should buy a sandwich and give him or turn him away because I would be encouraging him to be a drug addict and derelict for life.
I again looked at him and his entreating face and something he was saying which I couldn’t make out. By this time people were staring at me, you know, the sort of stare that is all too often common in India. I was sure people would gather around us to see something happen (devoid as they are of entertainment) as the shop’s employee had noisily tried to hit him and turn him away from the shop. But he kept coming back, his eyes wild, his words entreating me for something, which I couldn’t give. A small incipient crowd was gathering around us and I felt hot and embarrassed.
What should I do? What should I do? Few moments of indecision ensued as I quickly gulped down my sandwich (I was hungry, remember) and took a picture, unashamedly for this blogpost, and then I made a quick decision and decided not to sponsor his dinner/drug fix, whatever. I wouldn’t mind giving him a meal but would die before I encourage his drug habit.
Today I just typed “number of drug addicts in India” into Google search and find that there are 70 million hardcore drug addicts in India. What are we doing about them?