Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Laughing Buddha and The Little Child

The Laughing Buddha and The Little Child
Lessons from the Streets of Delhi

One Sunday a week ago, on our way out from Sarvana Bhawan after breakfast, we were waylaid by two little children. The elder girl, perhaps six or seven years old, and her tiny sibling, were both selling ball-point pens.

Though it was a few months since we had been here, we had already bought many of these on previous visits from them and other children. So, I shook my head in response to their insistent pleas to buy the pens. But I was carrying some clothes and some sweets and I asked them if they would like to take them. They nodded and as they accompanied us, the elder one said I had given them clothes and biscuits earlier. I wondered at their remembering since it was some time since I was last there. Then she added I had last met them at Palika Parking. I smiled and said: “that must be someone else”. In the manner of children, she said then it must have been a friend of mine since the lady there had also given them some clothes.

As I handed them the bag with the clothes packed in that my daughter had outgrown and the little box of toffees, the younger one fished out a tiny red laughing Buddha. It was made of some plastic. She tried to put it in my hand.

I said I did not want it. “Please take it”, she insisted. Wary of being saddled with something I really did not want, I thanked her and pointed to the Ganesha on the dashboard, saying I already had one. “Didi, gift hai”, she kept saying. “Nahin beta”, I said, unclear about what she meant and unwilling to take something that she would be able to sell to someone else. The elder girl asked her to let it be. But she placed the laughing Buddha back in the car, smiling and insisting: “gift hai”.

I took it finally. It would have been churlish to refuse the priceless gesture and the gift of the little girl and her big heart. Thanking her and waving to them both, I wished I had something else apart from old clothes and toffees to give her. Resolving to carry more things for them on our next visit to Sarvana, I hope and pray that they, and other little children like them on the streets of Delhi, stay safe and well. Meanwhile, the Little Laughing Buddha sits in our car, a reminder of how the gift of giving has nothing to do with how much you have.