Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What an old man taught me

There I was, running my own firm in the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century (Thought that would sound a bit ancient and dramatic than 2002).

A few hundred metres from my office there was this man who sold cigarettes, candies (the lemon sweet variety), and little eats. He was blind. I used to make small talk with him occasionally over a smoke. He smoked beedies [pungent Indian substitute for nicotine addicts] all the time, and at no point did I think that was repugnant. One night, at around 8 PM in the night, I asked him where he lived. And he said "Keshavadasapura" a few miles from "Kawdiar" in Trivandrum where my office was located. I asked him how he went back home and he said "I walk back, of course", and I wasn't convinced.

I was surprised, and I asked him how he made the journey of a few miles, despite being blind. He said that he walked back home, with a lantern which he held in front of him. Today, too far removed from the reality of that day, I can almost visualize him doing that - an old blind man, finding his familiar way back, with a lantern dangling in front of him.

But I was surprised again by a thought. What use is a lantern to a blind man? I asked him that question, partly fueled by curiosity, and partly because political correctness was never my strength. And his answer was this - "The lantern is not for me. It is an announcement for those coming against me. I'm just hoping they can see me."

That man taught me a lesson. The lantern that I often hold dear is not for me. It is for those who come against me. I just hope (for all of our sake) they see the flame.

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