2 days ago I was returning from my college, all weary and clumsy when I came across a mentally challenged child. It seemed like a typical case of autism. He was sitting alone in a corner of the street. He held his knees to his chest and wrapped them around in his arms. Pitch black body, saliva oozing out of his mouth and damping his legs, flies all over his body and red eyes would be an apt description. The sun was scorching while he seemed bedazzled by a tiny ant walking around him. Although I have hustled for almost two years in Chennai, I don’t know how to speak Tamil. Thankfully, I had a Tamilian friend, whom I asked to ask the boy where his home was. He didn’t seem bothered. I couldn’t think of anything at that moment so, quickly, fumbled for my purse and brought out a note of 10 bucks and offered to him. He still didn’t look up.
A local man came up to us and told that he is not capable of understanding what you’re giving to him. I bent my knees and sat to let my face level his and looked at him in the eye. He looked at me from the corner of his eye and a curve shaped in his lips. He was blushing. I asked the man where his parents were and he replied that they live nearby. Every day they’d leave him alone in the road and he’d be sitting in the exact position every single day.
I don’t know what happened at that moment but I could feel my heart breaking. With all the image in front of me, a strange wave of irk settled in my stomach. I winced and got up. Before anybody could notice, I turned away and started walking towards a shop and bought a plate of ‘vada’. If not anything, I could give him some food for the day. I brought the plate near him and he kept glancing furtively at me and smiling. That’s all he did. He just kept smiling. No bodily response. That irk was rendering me restless. I wanted him to take it, but he wouldn’t. With the wince, I could realize my eyes about to water. Hastened, I placed the plate of ‘vadas’ beside him and asked him to eat when he feels like. And walked away. After I returned I wept like how he would have if he knew what he was suffering from.
Hours later, I figured the reason for the stinging restlessness; it wasn’t because he was not capable of helping himself. I was incapable. I was helpless. I couldn’t do anything about it. And neither will I. The helplessness was twisting my stomach. I used to tell people that I wanted to make a difference, help the needy and in fact, joined a Non-profit Government Organization eventually as a step towards it. I have made zero difference. For people like me, it’s just something I saw on my way back from college. To some, it’s commonly known as life. I don’t know how many decades it will take for everything to be just right.