Dear Ezra and Lian,
When people get off a train in rush hour in India, it’s madness. It is so crowded. People don’t form lines on either the left or the right. It’s just one big crowd getting on while one big crowd gets off. People bump into one another, shove others out of the way to get where they need to go. It’s a bit scary that you will lose your friends travelling with you. You barely need to walk; the crowd can just push you along.
I was in such a crowd. I was leaving a train and moving through the main station in Pune. I smelled him before a saw him. It was the smell of death. The crowd moved around him and every one covered their noses to keep from vomiting. The stench was so bad. The single worst thing I have ever smelled and I have smelled some terrible odours.
The man was lying on the sidewalk. He leaned on his elbow weakly begging for money. Meanwhile he clearly had gangrene in his legs. He looked like the totally desperate do. His clothes, his hair, his skin was a single colour; a dark grey-black from years of dirt. His hair was long and matted. Without help, I really believe he would only live a few more days. He barely looked alive. Almost 15 years later, his image still haunts my thoughts every week.
I just walked on by. The crowd just pushed me along and through the gates out of the station. I was in shock. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stand the odour. I had no solutions. I thought about going back to help, but I didn’t. I didn’t get assistance. I didn’t tell authorities or charities or anyone. I had been in India too long and seen too much to really be surprised. I discovered that day, just how evil I really was. That day, my heart was stone.
If you ever say, “Somebody ought to do something.” Know that the somebody is you. I have a few simple measuring sticks to gauge whether I have succeeded or failed as a father. If you walk on by a man like this, just like the way I did, then surely I have failed. Please be better than your father.