THE MODERN dictionary refers to ‘innocence’ as freedom from sin or moral wrong. We usually think of innocence not as a virtue, but as a so young stage where we aren’t yet aware of evil in the world. This innocence is very easily found in the young one’s and a child. The importance of the virtue of innocence is implied in Christ’s admonition: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

In last few days, I was really busy with my final year project, which is still not working with just over a week left for the submissions. Yesterday my project group and I headed to Shivaji Park in Dadar just to take time off from the project thing and enjoy the last days of college life and plan for a farewell blast. We were chatting in a very light mood and just crackling. The people around were looking at us as if we had just come from some mental asylum

Mumbai’s streets are a beggars’ paradise. There are more than 10,000 beggars in the city and at least 50 per cent of them are children. As we went through our discussion, a child barely four-five years old came to us. The child was just too young and was looking at us very joyfully. We asked him to sit with us. He sat very affectionately as if we had known each other for long time. In the course of the conversation, I asked him, “Tujhi aayi aani baba kuthe aahe (Where are your parents?).” He replied that they were begging on the other side of the park. My friend asked him, “You are not afraid of roaming alone?” The boy gave a firm reply “No.” Then I asked him, “Din mein kitna kama lete ho (how much do u earn in a day)?” He said, “30-40 rupaiya bana leta hoon.” My friend said, “Just imagine that he is earning 30-40 from this age and our parents have invested lakhs of money on us and we have slogged it out for 22 years and yet we are not sure where to go.” We all laughed and the boy also joined us but I doubt whether he understood anything.

The boy then asked for some money from us. I asked him to show me how much he had earned that day. He opened his packet, which carried a 20-rupee note and some coins of one and two rupees. I just took my wallet and showed him that I had only 10 rupees and he was having more money than me. The boy then checked my wallet and after a long thought, he opened his packet and said, “Maajha kadun 20 rupaiya ghya (you take my 20 rupees).” Listening to this line, we just couldn’t control our emotions and laughed once again endlessly and later we had tears in our eyes. The tears were not due to the fact that he had offered me 20 rupees but that was because of the innocence of the young boy, who despite having his life in stormy waters, thought of helping me after making sure that my wallet was empty.

The ‘innocence’ of young boy took all the stress from our faces that was there for so many weeks because of the project and other stuffs. We then got a photograph clicked with that boy and he was just too happy and gave various poses for the camera. He looked at his photos with great delight. We then had vada-pav and tea together while he narrated his tormented life in broken Hindi. After that the boy left, but I just realised what a great lesson he had taught me. Smile when you are in pain and the world is yours. The boy said that he had no problem in begging and was enjoying his life and was proud in contributing towards the family income. Sometimes you feel that there is so much sorrow in the life of the other people and yet they take life as it comes and fight it out.

Perhaps this endless struggle motivates us to do something constructive towards the society and the story is same for everyone – one with all the resources and one without any.

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