Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Another Day in Paradise

Christmas time is one of happiness and joy, one of smiles and celebrations. And one of cold snowy winter as well. Three days to go before Christmas, the city was in a festive and joyous mood. That snowy night, I found myself walking on the pavement draped in all sorts of winter wear I could lay my hands on. I was missing my wife quite a bit, she had to go out of town for a conference and would be back only on New Year’s Eve. The late-night walks and a midnight coffee with her would’ve been just what the doctor ordered, if you ask me.

Yet there I was alone among a sea of humanity, with an all-professional visage in a surrounding filled with holiday cheer and festivities. Somewhere afar, I heard the hum of a cathedral bell chime ten. Even at this hour, there were a lot of people outside, quite a sizeable chunk of them with children, throwing snowballs at each other. I was immune to the celebrations around me, as I watched the setting dispassionately.

I slowly made my way across the street to a café. Like all other shops in the vicinity, the café too was decorated with Christmas trees and decorations hanging from the walls. There was a decent sized crowd in the café, most of them clutching their cups of piping lattes and hot chocolates taking in the vacation spirit and engaged in lively conversations. Just as I was about to push open the door, my eyes darted to the side. And there, I found him, yet another homeless man in this city of dreams. He had a blanket which he had draped across his body, and a tattered pair of shoes which, I wondered, did much to protect his feet from the wintry chill. He was not much different from the thousands of others whom I’ve seen on the streets over the course of years, but I shouldn’t generalize or trivialize this human being. This was not a number I could add up if I were counting the number of such individuals I had come across on the streets, this was a human being with life and blood.

Even he seemed to embrace the mood of the occasion. He was smiling, or more accurately, that’s what I read from the spread-out lips with hardly anything resembling teeth inside his mouth. Despite the cold, it seemed, he was bent on giving his life the few hours of joy and liveliness he rarely could afford. As I pushed open the door and stepped into the café, his face and his smile, somehow, had affected me. Something all of the life and energy around me in the past few hours could not do, a look at his face for a few seconds did for me. For the first time that evening, I found myself smiling.

I was still sporting my smile when I went up to the very cheerful barista at the counter.

“I’ll take a tall latte” I said.

As she was about to bill my latte, I corrected myself.

“Actually, make that two lattes. And I’ll add a couple of scones to that order as well.”

A few minutes later, I exited the café sipping my latte and holding the other latte and scones in my free hand. And I bent down in front of the man in front of the café and put down the latte in front of him and handed him the scones.

“Merry Christmas to you my dear man,” I said.

“You too, sir. Oh, thank you so very much for these. May God bless you!”

I smiled and stood up. As I slowly started to walk away in the direction of my apartment, I heard him say, “You’ve fed a hungry soul sir. That’s another day for you in paradise.”

The title is inspired by a song of the same name by Phil Collins. You can watch the song here and the lyrics can be found here.

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