No Reason

At first light there he was, that old man

Peanuts piled on his trolley

In preparation for the holiday to commemorate God

When street vendors could expect to make extra rupees

 Standing behind his tiny bicycle-wheeled trolley

With its iron scales and weights and a stack of paper bags made from old newspapers

The mound of peanuts before him

 

Promise of extra income for a man used to

Surviving on nothing.

 

Watched him that bent old man in his cotton kurta

Surveying his means of his survival at the start of the day

To commemorate God.

 

What was his story?

How had he ended up here?

He and the millions of others like him?

Every one of them had a story

None of which I would ever hear, separated as we were

By language

By place of birth

The difference between a temporary stay in a strange land

And a lifetime spent on the street.

 

In the evening when it was cooler

I saw him again

When I bought a bag of those peanuts

The street was noisy, crowded, a seething mass of faces and voices

Illuminated by the few street lights which still worked

 

He had been standing there twelve hours after I first saw him

That old street vendor.

 

The air was foul with fumes and smoke, like a low hanging mist,

As I handed over a few coins for a bag of peanuts,

Watched him carefully weighing up the peanuts on his scales – he was an honest man – 

I saw he and I, each of us standing on one of the iron dishes of the scales

and I tried to work out why those scales tipped

So crazily in my favour

 

Maybe he believed in karma, in God, in some kind of design

Behind it all.

Me, I saw nothing, no justice, no design, no intent,

No Reason

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