APRIL 30 — I saw a grown man cry today.
It’s not like I have not seen someone cry.
It’s just that this was so different.
I had stepped out of the car to buy some fruits for my grandson when the man approached me.
I instinctively stepped back and took in the man who stood before me.
He wore a stained face mask; probably for many days. He was dark; the kind of dark you get from working in the fields; or on construction sites.
There were even darker shadows under his eyes. He had a haunted look.
I was still trying to figure out whether he was dangerous or whether he was a beggar.
The man must have realised what I was thinking and he too stepped back, perhaps to show that he meant me no harm.
It was only a couple of minutes but that scene keeps replaying in my mind.
The man started crying; not pretend crying; real sobs and the tears flowed.
“Sir, I am not a beggar; I am not a beggar,” he kept repeating.
Perhaps a little gruffly I asked what he wanted.
”Food...” he said.
And he sobbed. An able bodied man, dirty clothes, unwashed and unbathed, grimy, probably from sleeping along shuttered shops — just sobbing.
To be honest, I didn’t know how to react.
So I listened as he told me his story in those two minutes.
He had come to Malaysia to work. He was a carpenter. Then the lockdown happened and he lost his job.
He could not pay the rent on his room and was evicted. He had been roaming the streets since.
Again and again, he kept saying: “I am not a beggar....”
It was a man who must have been proud once that he had a job; proud that he’d left his native country to come to Malaysia, paying off agents, to send money home for his family to have a better life.
And yet, there he was... standing completely humiliated before a stranger, begging for food.
I thrust some money into his hands and walked off towards TMC. But then, I turned back to look at him and he was still standing there, holding the money and looking at me.
I turned back and gave him more money and he kept saying, “Sir, I am not a beggar...”
As I saw the long queue at TMC, I wondered whether that man would one day be able to go into a supermarket just to buy fruits for his children.
I didn’t join the queue.
As I drive off empty handed, I saw the man standing in a corner and wondered why he had not gone to Mahbob or SYED Restaurant to buy a meal.
I came home and told my wife about what happened, still troubled.
After prayers and breaking fast, I sent a message to my friends about this, just to remind ourselves how lucky we are.
And as I was writing this, to send to my children, I suddenly realised why the man had not bought his meal.
I had guessed he was a Bangladeshi, maybe a Rohingya, or a Pakistani.
The sobbing man, I now realise, was probably fasting.
There, but for the grace of God...
* Kalimullah Hassan is a Malay Mail reader.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.