It was a hard day. I hadn’t slept much the previous night and it was an early start to the day. The good part was that I finished my day’s work early. I was free by 4pm. I took a metro to Rajouri and then an auto to my home. The auto driver was a well-fed, middle-aged Sikh who, it seemed, hadn’t slept for many nights. With a compassionate smile he greeted me, and we were off.
As we were riding to my place, the driver received a phone call. With a pained voice, he said: “Main nikal peya haan uttho. Rabb chaavega te meri kismet vich beti da sukkh hovega; warna jiddaa rabb di marzi” (I’ve left from that place. If God so desires, I will have the joy of a daughter’s love in my life; else, I’ll accept whatever God wants). And then this heavily built man started crying.
Sensing his pain, I kept my hand on his shoulder and asked him what was the matter? He said his 9-year old daughter is seriously ill from a stomach ulcer. She is admitted in Batra Hospital. The operation costs INR 40,000, out of which INR 25,000 have to be paid in advance. He has been able to secure only INR 11,000. He had gone to his brother’s house to ask for additional INR 14,000 who told him, ‘Main tere ta teri beti da theka ni chukya hoya.’ (I am not obligated to you and your daughter). Angry and dejected, he left his brother’s house. He went to the hospital but they wouldn’t operate without the money, and asked him to either bring the money by evening or take his daughter to a government hospital. He was inconsolable now.
No man should have to go through such ordeal. The pain of seeing your child die is unbearable; I was all too well aware of that. I was – God be praised – in a position to help. I asked him to stop at an ATM, and I withdrew and gave him INR 15,000. He started crying copiously and kissed my hand. He wouldn’t take the money though. ‘Main sikh haan; main twahde paihe ni le sakda.’ (I’m a sikh; I can’t accept charity). I told him to consider this as a loan, if he must. He asked me to visit the hospital with him and hand it to hospital authorities. He also asked me to come and bless the child. I was moved.
As we were going to the hospital, he said he’d need to make a quick stop at his house, which was in a slum near the hospital, to pick up the additional INR 11,000. I felt scared. Yes, scared! For some strange reason I felt it wouldn’t be ‘safe’ for me. The world is a weird place, you see! Here I was completely connecting with this guy one moment and giving him money for his daughter’s operation, and feeling scared the very next moment that he may do me harm. I told him not to take me to the hospital. He should drop me to my place and then go to the hospital. I told him that I trust that he will use this money for his daughter’s well being.
He dropped me home. He then put his eyes and forehead on the back of my palm, and kissed my hand again. He gave me his number and asked me to note down the auto’s number as well. He told me that he would return the money at the earliest. I told him that he didn’t have to. I wished him well and a speedy recovery to his daughter.
Reflective as always, I thought long and hard about the entire incident. What came over me to help him? What if I didn’t have the money? Why did I feel scared after I had already committed to help him? Why is it that after I felt scared, I still gave him the money? Among all the other questions bothering me, the most important one I want answered is that whether I should’ve gone to the hospital with him?
I think there are two main possibilities. First, he was a genuine person – a true Sikh – and really in need of money to save his daughter’s life. In this case, his daughter would’ve got the treatment and hopefully responded well to it. As such, I didn’t need to go to the hospital with him. Second, he schemed me into giving him the money. In this scenario too, I shouldn’t have gone with him as who knows what else he might have done to get more money.
I can call the hospital to determine which of the scenarios is true. But I am too anguished with what I may find out. More about myself than the incident or the world.