even vulgar. One could read his writings all over the town; no one prevented him from using their wall as his writing board.
Being more dignified than ordinary beggars, he did not cringe for food but demanded food as a matter of right. He selected a house by intuition, a house that could be charitably inclined and where he felt sure he would be fed. He stood in front of the house and cried, “Amma, I am hungry. Please give me food.” It was more a call of assured hope than doubtful anticipation. He had been our ‘guest’ several times and never failed to thank mother for her kindness. One day he scribbled on our wall, “Dark Christians are good
Not far from our place there was another verse of this man scribbled in charcoal:
Good madam, son and daughter
To me gave coconut water.
They live behind this wall
God bless them all.
The lady of the house must have been good enough to give him water from tender coconut. She had many coconut palms in her back garden. It was very nice of her to have fed him with coconut water.
When his writings on the walls began to fade in course of time and no new ones appeared, we realised he was no more in the town. Perhaps he had left Ramnad for a better place, which was not likely.
Mr.Bhende was a former history teacher in a school in Bombay. He had lost his mind and was disowned by his people, for what reason no one knew. He was considered ‘mad’ and left to beg. He wandered along the crowded roads of Bombay shouting quotations from history books and English poetry.
Though he did not visit our area regularly, I often visualised him walking along our road, touched by a feeling of brotherhood that he was a member of teaching fraternity. Then he was not to be seen for a long time. He just disappeared from our sight and faded from our memory. When and where he went, no one knew. Nor cared to know. And much less remembered. .
Lawrence D’souza’s age cannot be guessed. He could be in his sixties or eighties. All that one could see on his face were a few furrows but no expression. Neither happy nor sad. Short in stature, emaciated, with a pair of thin legs in his night pyjamas once white but now brown with age and dirt. A shirt he wore, torn here and there and held by safety pins. He was a devout catholic; at least that was what he appeared to be. A framed picture of Mother Mary was hung from his neck and displayed covering his chest. A tray at right angle to his torso above the waist was held by shoulder straps with odds and ends like small religious icons in aluminium, small coloured prints of Christ and Mary and a few coins dropped by well-wishers.
He walked around D’costa Square and St.Thomas Town, Bangalore singing “Ave Maria” in a faint and weak voice hardly audible ten feet from him. He just kept singing and walking until someone stopped him to offer a coin or two, mostly in small change. These coins were dropped on his tray. He never asked for money nor stretched his hand to receive it. In exchange for the alms received Lawrence blessed the donor by placing his right hand on the generous person’s head and said a brief, silent prayer. And then he moved on singing “Ave Maria” until someone else stopped him for his blessing.
His absence was noticed for many months and some enquiries made. The rumour went round that he had been sent by the church to a charity home for aged destitute. Mother Mary had blessed him, finally. When he dies he will be buried unwept and unsung because no one in St.Thomas Town will know when he died and how.
His name could be Stephen, Samuel or Srinivas. It just doesn’t matter by what name he was called. He was a polio victim left to beg for a living. Crippled by polio in his younger days, he cannot stretch his legs fully. His hands were crooked and fingers bent inward and stiff. He could be in his