Authors note: I’d like to introduce Kevin for those of you who haven’t met him. Kevin is a man who sits on the streets of Kolkata. He begs. He pops up from time to time.
Sometimes clarity is a bitch. Like when it bites you on the bum at the supermarket.
As tragic as it sounds, I found myself excited by the prospect of a new supermarket opening in my neighbourhood. Yeah, sure it is the same as all the other surrounding supermarkets, selling the same produce at the same price, but this one is new!
Wide clean isles, boxes and jars aligned perfectly in rows, a bounty of fresh produce in plentiful supply, the latest in trolley design and cash register technology. It's like stepping into an artificial universe. It is… perfect. Except for bloody Kevin. I push my not annoyingly wonky because it is new trolley through the fresh produce aisle. I see Kevin sitting in the corner, wishing someone would throw him an apple, even a blemished one. Get lost Kevin. I start to feel nauseous. The perfection of it all, the over abundant supply, it starts to make me sick. Is there something wrong with me? I wondered. “Nice trolley” says Kevin as he sits slumped on the wooden trolley he is wheeled onto the street on every day. I notice the ergonomic design of my trolley handles, moulded to maximize my trolley pushing comfort. I feel a bit dizzy. Is this real? Is there really a place as perfect as this for me to purchase to my heart’s content while Kevin sits on the street in Kolkata and begs for his own survival?
I happen upon the pasta sauces and browse the 12 different varieties of the same sauce, trying to decide what sauce I feel like having. I start to feel a bit anxious, I get a bit teary in the pasta sauce isle, no one notices, I just blend in with all the other depressed shoppers. I wonder what would Jesus say to me? Is this ok?
Of course it is. It must be.
For goodness sake can’t I just buy my baked beans in peace Kevin? Do you have to follow me everywhere? WHAT DO YOU WANT??
What are you trying to say Kevin…..?
My friend Jen and I went on a girl’s trip, of sorts. We are both a bit weird to be honest, although I’m certain Jen outranks me in a big way on the weirdometer. Anyhoo we decided, as you do, that we would visit Bangladesh together. This was the first time either of us had visited this part of the world, and it was a life changing experience. Jen has since gone on to create a hairdressing training school in Bangladesh that trains women/girls and gives them relief from their grinding poverty. I, on the other hand, am hallucinating in supermarkets…. Hmm perhaps I’m tipping the weirdometer scale…
Anyhoo this trip, as I said, was life changing.
One day while we were in Bangladesh we had the privilege of visiting a village right near the border. Most of the people in this village had not seen white people before, so we were fairly popular. Kindly the villagers charmed some snakes for us (!) and showed us around their houses made of mud. These people were heartbreakingly poor. After an hour or so of trying to communicate with smiles and head nods, and trying not to dry reach at the stink of poverty it was time to leave. As we came to get in the car one of the older men of the village approached me with his toothless grin and took hold of my hand. He looked me in the eyes and said “remember me”.
I smiled, squeezed his hand and slid into the back seat of the 4WD. As we drove off I looked through the back window of the car, I looked at this weathered desperately poor man and I whispered to myself with tears welling in my eyes, I will remember you.
I swung around in my seat and told Jen what the man had said to me.
She looked at me a bit stunned before she reminded me of one small fact I had forgotten.
He doesn’t speak English. He hasn’t even seen a white person before today.
That’s a moment of clarity I will never forget.
I remember you. Forgive me brother. I remember you.