30th October

The Haunted Face

We were happy, content, relaxed. You might even say we were feeling good about ourselves, although we were always careful to guard against complacency or smugness. Perhaps the fact that we guarded against such feelings indicates that we were sometimes too pleased with our lot. I hope not. We knew we were lucky. We counted our blessings. We knew it might not always be like this.

We’d been at a charity event. The money was going to a school for orphaned Dalit children in India. Once these children would have been classed as ‘untouchable’ but legally there is no such thing as untouchability in India today. However, old attitudes remain, and discrimination continues. The children in the school received care and love. Their future contained possibilities.

A fair amount of money had been raised for the school. We had contributed our share. After the event was over we went to our favourite restaurant for something to eat. We had two courses and a bottle of wine. The cost was about half of what we had donated to the charity.

Our walk home took us along the city’s most upmarket shopping street. The mannequins in the windows were wearing extremely fashionable clothes, so expensive that the prices were not displayed. If you are concerned about the price, the message was, don’t even think about coming in.

It was not a cold night, but it was raining lightly. A young man without a coat approached us. I say ‘young’ but close up his face was lined and worn, and yet he did not look more than thirty. He asked me for money. I did not have any money. ‘Sorry,’ I said. I had given the money in my wallet to the charity, and we had paid for our meal with a credit card. We passed him by, and he shrugged as if he was well used to being refused. No doubt he would ask again, and again.

A haunted face. Whatever had happened to bring him to where he was, was with him still. It might be with him till he died. He looked like a man unloved, uncared for, without possibilities. We did not help him.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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