Whilst pondering about how good 2011 had been to me, I couldn’t help but think about some of the people I had met that year and how they had, in one way or the other, managed to influence me.
I apologize if the title led you to think that this was about the television sitcom! This actually is about Mr. Raymond and the other Mr. Raymonds, who I’m sure all of us have chanced upon ever so often on the streets of Bangalore. Let me explain.
Last year, during my many visits to a site on Lavelle Road, I used to find finding a parking slot quite a challenge. On one such occasion when I was trying to move some bikes and make space to squeeze my bike in, I heard someone call out and say in immaculate English, “Good Morning, Sir. Let me help you with that.” I turned around to find this scruffy old man in an oversized dirty black tee smiling at me. After thanking him for offering to help, I parked my bike and walked to the café. When I returned to take my bike and leave, I gave the man a tenner, he smiled and said, “Thank You, Sir. Have a great day!” This then became a daily routine.
Later, I chanced upon the same man on St. Mark’s Road limping and walking towards Lavelle Road and I stopped to offer him a ride on my bike. The man refused at first and seemed to be a little surprised but then, on my insistence, agreed to let me take him to his ‘workplace’. During the short ride from near Noon Wines to Java City, I noticed that he, for some reason, was sitting right at the edge of the pillion and it worried me that he might slip and fall. His response, to my request for him to sit more comfortably, shocked me. He said that his clothes were very dirty and so he didn’t want to move any closer! He later told me that his name was Raymond D’Souza and that daily he collected five rupees from people who parked their bikes outside Java City on Lavelle Road. Mr. Raymond, had two children whom he had taken care of and had gotten them educated in one of the city’s finest schools, Frank Anthony Public School and that these children had abandoned him some years back. He had gone through a lot and yet had managed to smile at everyone whom he saw there. He explained that the smile was because he knew that everyone loved him and he had no reason to be sad!
As the days went by, I started meeting and chatting with Mr. Raymond, whenever I could find time. I had noticed that he had blisters on his feet and that walking all day long had really damaged his feet. At one point, I’d offered to get him some new shoes and clothes to wear and he had managed to amaze me again with his response. He refused saying that the way he looked and dressed helped him in getting a few bucks more as people felt sympathy for him and that if he had dressed better, they would think he was scamming them! Wasn’t he doing the same that most of us do when we dress in a particular manner to create the right impression, whether it is going for a meeting at work or going to the court to pay a fine for DUI? He was only trying to look the part and it worked for him, I guess!
During the many chats that I had with him, I had developed a lot of respect for him and I began to go to Lavelle Road almost everyday, even if it was only to check on him. Sometime in August or September, I think, he stopped coming for his job as the unofficial ‘parking attendant’. After a few days of his disappearance, I enquired with the security guards and others who were there and nobody seemed to have noticed his absence. It’s been more than 4 months now and there has been no trace of Mr. Raymond. I can only hope that he is doing fine wherever he is.
After getting to know Mr. Raymond, I realized that not every poor man on the streets of the city , who begged for money, would end up getting drunk later in the night. More importantly, how did it matter even if he did? And if I did doubt their intentions, did I bother to check even once if my suspicion was valid? This is when I am reminded of the quote by George Bernard Shaw, “Any belief worth having must survive doubt.” If I did not have the courage to check if my belief was rational, I had no right to doubt. And then, aren’t there scamsters in every section of the society? Would it be right to generalize and label the entire section based on a few instances?
Hoping that the next time someone sees a Mr. Raymond, they will think twice before doubting him!