I’m staring out of the window, and I’m getting increasingly annoyed with the driver’s antics. You know, that fine driving art of pulling ever so slightly forward – feigning to get a move on – and slamming on the brakes again? Yeah, that bugs me no end.
I’m on the bus at the Katubedda junction, which to anybody who has traveled on the hallowed 255 route is known to be the breather between one bout of maniacal driving and another round which makes the doomed bus on Speed look like a snail who gets picked last in a game of Tag.
So I’m waiting for the bus to get a move on, when a man gets on, probably in his forties and doesn’t hasten to find a seat. He breaks the silence with the beginning of his (sob?) story. Seeing as he had no obvious physical disability, I was curious to know what ill-fate had befallen our protagonist.
Turns out the man has a little son – he had the obligatory crumpled up photograph of the boy as ‘proof’- who the good doctors at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital had determined had a life-threatening disease.
And this disease is?
Yeah, Cardio. That’s what the man said. Obviously he pulled that term out of his rear end, and probably, I now begin to suspect, the entire story – but that’s not the weird part.
He claims that the boy recovered miraculously. Hallelujah! But then um, why the sad face?
So here’s his problem. Turns out he had promised the Kataragama Deity that he would save a cow from slaughter if his son was saved. Accordingly, said son was spared, but, wait for it, he doesn’t have money to pay for the cow, and that’s why he is begging for money!
Now it is not that I don’t respect the varied beliefs of people – I do. But a line has to be drawn somewhere. It boggles my mind how anybody could feel that a compassionate being would be hard on deadlines. Even more absurd is believing that begging, instead of working extra hard for the money to pay for this meritorious act would gain any credit. From anyone, let alone a wise powerful being.
His story ends, and the next thing I know is tens and twenties flashing all around me. And here I was expecting that everyone would see through this obvious scam.
Don’t get me wrong – my personal principle on indulging beggars is to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t fret whether the coins I place in some guy’s hand will go into feeding his hungry kids or crack or any other unregistered ‘medication’. Most of us spend too much money on trivial stuff to be judgmental over a ten rupee note. So it’s not like I’m a miserly old Grinch.
It’s just that I wish that people’s money remained in their pockets and purses when approached by obvious con men.