The road was empty for few minutes. Seventy year old vegetable merchant pushed his hand-cart and tried to cross the road. This unexpected act provoked police officers. They rushed to his end and pushed his hand-cart aside. Vegetables from his cart spread all over the road. There were lot of pedestrians, spectators and passengers but no one came forward to help the old man.
I was part of the first set of vehicles blocked by traffic police to provide way for VVIPs. I was uncomfortably resting inside my car’s comfort zone. One side of the traffic was blocked for the last 30 minutes. I was restless that I’m going to miss my scheduled meetings today.
1990, June 23rd 8.30 PM, I was in front of my TV set. I’m sure; most of my friends were also in front of their TV sets. We all were waiting for the pre-quarterfinal match of FIFA World Cup between Columbia and Cameroon.
I was eagerly waiting to see the Columbian goal keeper, Higuita, in action. Higuita had a different approach to the game. He was not ready to restrict himself under the bars, rather a goal keeper who was looking for opportunities to score goals. No doubt, Higuita was my hero. I lived in a society which always gave guidance for a predictable lifestyle. Here in a world cup match, a goal keeper breaking all conventions and dribbling the ball around the field to score goals. It was beyond my imagination.
Convey of vehicles rushed through the vacant road. The vehicle wheels crushed the old man’s vegetables spread over the road. Strategically placed protesters tried to wave black flags. The old man didn’t understand what is happening around; he tried to pick the spoiled vegetables from the road like a mother picks her son from an accident spot. Police was not ready to leave the old man. They took him by his collar to beat him. There were lot of pedestrians, spectators and passengers but no one came forward to help the old man.
After the world cup, Higuita faded in to the dark corners of my memory. But the different imageries of a goalkeeper portrayed by Higuita often disturbed me. Why can’t I do something different in my life? There were several occasions where I could have helped others but I was not ready to change my priorities and lifestyle for others. I was more worried about the fate of my scheduled meetings when the old man was beaten-up by the police. If a goal keeper can break the unwritten rules in a world cup match, what is blocking me?
If someone would have come forward to help the old man, I would have joined with him. But no one came forward to help the old man.
I realized the solitude of a goal keeper under the bars. A goal keeper betrayed by other players spread his hands like wings of a bird to face the penalty kick. The fifty thousand people in the stadium were silent; they were waiting for that moment. Whether the goal keeper can save the kick?
I opened the doors of my car and ran towards the old man.
Friends, if someone would have posted that old man’s photo in Facebook, I’m sure, I would have added comments to register my protest. But I’m not comfortable to break my conventional life style even though the situation demands it. I keep sympathy, compassion and kindness only in my thoughts and words. Whenever there was a need to act, I carefully found reasons to avoid them.
I’m not sure, how many of you are like me. If you are like me, we just have to understand, in reality, pity is not enough. Sympathy is not enough. Even compassion is not enough. We must ask this question every day, “What I have done today to help others?” If we have a simple answer to this question, it is a good beginning. We don’t need to be Higuita; we don’t need to be a hero; we don’t need to be supernatural to change our priorities for others. It requires a positive mind and determination. After all, one kind act is superior to thousand praying lips.
Note: Inspired by N S Madhavan’s short story Higuita.