What price Valentine?

Selfless love is characterised by a generosity that intellectuals talk of and mad men practice.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2007 20:10 IST

There are love tokens and there are love tokens.

I live in Indore, in India's heartland. On our way back from an adjacent town, my friend and I stopped at a highway dhaba. Placing our order, we stretched ourselves out on the cane chairs. A motley group of people occupied other tables. As we glanced around desultorily, a ragged man sauntered in and sat down. He poured himself a glass of water from the steel jug. He drank two whole glasses, but ordered no food, nor did the dhaba boys ask him. When our tea and samosas arrived, he looked at the food, filled his glass again and drank it. We saw no greed in his eyes, but it was an easy guess, that the guy was hungry and had no money.

The dhaba boy told us, "Oh! That madman comes in everyday If he has money, he eats something, otherwise he just drinks a few glasses of water and leaves. My boss said that since water has been given to us by the Lord, we must never stop anyone drinking it at our dhaba."

This logic really touched me. I asked the boy to serve the man a plate of samosas. When he did so, the man looked at him. The boy pointed to us. The man looked at us but made no acknowledgement. As he picked up the first samosa, a little girl in rags walked up and just stood there. He gave her the samosa, which she wolfed down. He picked up the second one and handed that to her, too. She grabbed it and ran away He pushed away his emptyplate, filled up his glass again, drank the water and walked away from the dhaba without a backward glance.

I asked myself if I were capable of a gesture like that. The most I could muster was, "I HOPE so". If sharing what we have in excess is generosity, then how would we describe what that madman did? 'Selfless love'? It is what intellectuals talk about and madmen practice.


First Published: Feb 14, 2007 20:10 IST