Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Raju's Story

So, here I am. In one of the oldest living city in our globe; Kashi, Varanasi, or Benares. Its name is mentioned in Mahabharata epos, which dating goes back as much as about 4000 years. Mark Twain said: "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together." It is morning, now. The sky is quite hazy, so much that the sunlight seems fully scattered. I am off Banares by about 15 miles; There was a small deer park here roughly 2500 years ago. And there, here started the Buddha, the Enlightened One his teaching career. I was going to explore those ancient ruins, but life has something else to show...

I am somehow hesitant to enter to the ruins; so many tourists, and the whole scene combined with my present mood actually destroys all the illusions. So, I just buy some grilled hazelnuts and casually settle under a big tree. I eat it, then go -I tell myself, but even after a while I still prefer just lay by that tree watching people. And then:

Ah, hello!

a voice comes, from an over sized wheelchair. And there is a young man in it; a handsome face, and a severely crippled body. His legs are underdeveloped, they cannot be moved. The spine is severely deformed, so is his left hand that has been frozen into a grotesque gesture. His right hand is deformed, too, but he can use it to some extend, though it's keep shaking. He has a nice smile, and a bright, albeit extremely sorrow look.

After a while we call each other friend, and he tells me his story. He was born seventeen years ago, in Dharamsala, Himalaya, on a cold winter day, in January. Nothing is certain, though, because he has never known his parents.

I have no mom, no pappa, you know. You are a lucky man to have family.

Some days after the birth, he was left on the street on God's mercy. Probably because his crippled nature. The life is rough there, the food is a treasure. Someone, who cannot possibly work as a healthy man, does not deserve it...

However, that day God was merciful. There was a rich French man, leading a restaurant, who found him. Since he had quite some leftover food, he took the baby, who is known as Raju ever since. He fed him, taught him about far countries in a strange place called Europe, taught him French, English, some Hindi and Tibetan. He somehow managed to get him to the local school, when he reached that age.

But God's mercy is never for granted. The French man -father, as Raju calls him- had regularly been visiting his native place, France. One day, however, when Raju reached fifteen, his father did not return. Not even the next day. He was eagerly waiting his only 'relative' coming back -who, however, did not appear. Then, one day, he got a phone call. A call from France. It was his father. That time he was seventy five. He said to Raju that he had become seriously ill, and could not possibly come back in near future. God's mercy has left him on that very day.

He had to drop from school, because by himself he could not possibly manage his way through the mountain to the school. He settled at the government bus station near Dharamsala, in McLeod Ganji, as a beggar. But he did not like just begging. So, he learned all useful information about bus schedules, places to see, available accommodations, etc., and 'sold' those information as a kind of exchange for food and money.

So, you can say, that was kind of my job, you know.

He liked the tourists, because they talked to him as to a human. Although, the winter is tough there. He still remembers the bone-braking cold of his first winter on the bus station. He barely managed it. So, at age of seventeen, when the next winter approached, he decided to go to a warmer place - and, since there is a Tibetan community in Sarnat, he planned there.

He came through Delhi. The train station was not a nice place... Not for weak persons. Not for a handicapped one. He was robbed. Some gang took his savings, and wanted his mobile, too. He was not giving it. They pulled knife.

I give the mobile, but DO NOT the sim card.YOU MAY STAB ME, BUT I DO NOT GIVE THE CARD!

-he shouted. On his card there is the phone number of the only one, who had ever cared him; his distant father's. His courage saved his card, but nothing else. Nevertheless, somehow he reached here, Sarnat.
He sleeps under the naked sky, and has managed to collect malaria. From time to time the cold-hot shiver of fever runs through his body. Through his crippled body.

I am tired, you know. I am tired of life. No one talks to me, so, I am thinking. And I am thinking too much. I am thinking how bad life I've got. No hope. One day I have some food, on the other nothing. It would be better me to die; I'd have a better place up there. But today, my heart is happy! Because I found you, and we talk. When we talk, I am not thinking.

Buddhist teachers and monks alike are passing by. We are sitting by the big tree, with our backs against its massive trunk. They give a glance on him. A glance of distant, cold judgement: oh, a handicapped one. And with the same momentum they withdraw their interest. They focus back on the path of Buddha. On the meditation practice of compassion, perhaps? I grow angry. I do not want to see anything about the Buddhist ruins. I feel I learn far more; right here, right now, right with Raju-from Raju.

The sun sets, I've got to leave. I give him some money.

Oh, God, you see, if we were in my home I could welcome you, I could give you some information for exchange...
and starts to tell which hotel is cheap and good at McLeod Ganji. He wants a pay back.

But hey, are you hungry? I have money, now, at least I can invite you for dinner. I am not hungry; today I had a lucky day, and in the afternoon I could eat two (!) chapattis. But what would you like to eat?

I do not accept a dinner, but only a chai. We drink it - then I search for rikshaw. Both of our hearts grow heavy, feeling the depart to approach us. I give him a big hug, and a big smile, and wish him all the best.

But that smile is gone in the moment I am in the rikshaw. I am crying all the way back. The driver often gives a glance of wonder in the mirror. By the time reaching Benares, I am more or less in control of my emotion. Then I go to a restaurant. I order some mushroom masala, and they bring also two chapattis. In the moment when I see them I start my cry anew. God bless you, Raju!

Many persons were whining me about the difficulties in their lives; I was whining, too. But in my personal life probably Raju is the single one, who really has basis for that, and who does not creates his problems, but endures it. And endures it with bright acceptance, a certain grace, and a sad, but pure heart. Please, please! If you ever happen to see a handicapped beggar, do not judge him an unpleasant subject, but remember Raju. And if you ever happen to be around McLeud Ganji, find the handicapped Raju at the bus station, and give him something in behalf of me! He will pay that back with information and warmness. God bless you, Raju!


Pentti A said...

Beautiful story and a very sad one especially now that it is written down and called a story as it is definitely much more than a story, it is his life.

I am planning to write you soon Daniel, my friend. Bless you.

DMartini said...

Thank you, Pentti! Indeed it is more than sad; and I feel that we just do not truly appreciate how fortunate we are... I am awaiting to read your letter-hope to get it soon. Take care! :)

Peaceloveyoga said...

amazing story. It's so true...human encounters have far more to teach us versus battling it out with other tourist. Now, I'm reminded of how fortunate I am.

Thank you for sharing.

Catvibe said...

Oh wow, what an amazing story. Thank you for being the compassion in that moment, and for the gift to us of you telling this story. We have a lot to be grateful for in this world. Thank you.

Fida said...

My heart is heavy! You write in such a touching way about Raju, that I started crying reading it! And you remind us so well and with subtle irony what compassion is – or should be. When I meet people like that – and all are extraordinary people – I always promise myself never ever to complain again, never to whine again – ever.