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 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,