The man is diabetic and has two stents in his arteries. He isn’t old because he isn’t 60 yet but he isn’t young either because he’s about 55. He lives alone, his wife having died some years ago. His son and his daughter-in-law occupy the first floor. They don’t get along well with the man. The son is reproachful; the wife knows very well that the man doesn’t like unnecessary noise yet slams the door dozens of times a day.
In normal times, he manages his life as well as he can. But now Covid-19 has struck and it has changed everything. He’s compelled to stay home but it turns out that he’s a bad cook. Confinement is good for those having sufficient food at home and knowing how to cook; it’s a burden for those living alone and not knowing anything about cooking. Earlier, this man had nothing to complain about. He could buy himself roti, dhollpuri, bread and curry, noodles or takeaway. Suddenly, life has changed.
On Thursday, 2 April, 2020, in the morning, not having anything to eat, he took only some tea. Tea bags were running short and milk also wouldn’t last for long. How was he going to spend the day? In the evening, he could always eat some rice with vegetables. Without any food, the day promised to be long.
The question of asking anything from anybody didn’t arise. One day his son said from the balcony, “Si ou bizin kiksoz, ou dir.” Before he could answer, the son had turned his back and was gone. He therefore had no guts to ask anything from his son and his wife. They used to pick quarrels with him over trivial matters and to taunt him.
He was authorized to go out only on Saturday, 4 April, as his surname fell in the O-Z list. What was he going to do during the two days? Starve. He might develop stomach problems. He couldn’t take medicines (Metformin, Clopidogrel, Atorvastatin…) on an empty stomach. He badly needed to buy some food. He had in mind to meet someone he was familiar with and ask him to buy a few things for him. He had prepared a brief list and had put aside some money for this purpose. He had a few friends in the village, surely they would help.
But it was his unlucky day.
“Res ou lakaz, ton,” said the young policeman to the man, after checking his ID card. “Ou pa kone ou pa bizin sorti zordi?”
Though the mask was inconveniencing him, he explained that he needed some basic necessities. He had nothing left at home. He wasn’t really going to the supermarket, he was only hoping to meet someone already queuing up. What’s wrong with asking someone to do you a favour?
“ Se pa ou zour zordi. ”
“ Kouma mo pou viv ziska samdi ? ”
“ Se pa mo zafer. ”
“ Ou bizin konpran. ”
“ Mo pa la pou konpran ou problem personel. Mo la pou aplik lalwa. Se tou. ”
“ Mo bizin zis en de dipin, dite, dile… ”
“ Get sa bolom, pa amerd mwa, sinon mo aret ou aster-la mem. ”
The tone was, no doubt, threatening.
The man was worried. He had rice and some vegetables but he couldn’t consume rice twice a day. The doctor had warned him against too much rice.
Irritated, he wondered, “Why do some policemen think that they’re always right?”
“Mamou, kot pe ale?” asked a teenager who was passing by. As they walked together, respecting the social distancing, the man explained his situation. The policeman had perhaps thought that he was taking a stroll in the streets. Not having any biscuits or bread or cakes, he was in despair.
“Don’t worry, Mamou,” said the boy. He put down the two carton boxes, fished out a few things, put them in a plastic bag, and handed it to him. “Take this. It’ll help you till Saturday.” The man protested but the boy insisted. He wanted to pay but the boy said it didn’t matter.
The man had neither seen the boy’s face nor asked his name. He was a total stranger. He looked in the bag. In times of pressing need, a little something is priceless. Generosity is most significant when it comes at the right moment.
For every nine people in this world who will do anything they can to make your life difficult, there’s always one who will come from nowhere to make it easy.
With time, the man thought, the boy will forget his act of kindness; I won’t.