Erode Diaries: Homelessness – Its just a state of mind

We live in a really busy street downtown in Erode. You slip on a stone, and you’ll land in either a hospital or a pharmacy or an eatery errr…multiple eateries which people lovingly call as MESS. Great food, great people, friendly folks and all of them crowded.

As crowded as it gets, the localities remain the same. Everyone knows another by their names. They know their acquaintances parents and even grandparents. Growing up in such a tight knit environment I recognize everyone no matter how many years passed since my last trip here. I know them all, and they know me.

Then I noticed this tiny man, dressed in dirty shirt, hair uncombed to the point of tangled mess, he smiles at me. I do the same, I inquire if he had anything to eat, sometimes, he says yes, other times, he says no, then I give him 20 Rupees to cover for lunch/coffee/tea of his choice. I have never once seen him eat though. I’ve caught him smoking beedi, quietly contemplating on things, his busy mind being the only thing privy to his thoughts, as he observers the passerby intently.

I was curious about his story, so I interviewed him today, his name is Sri(changed to avoid true identity), he proclaimed that he has some medical illness and therefore refuses to cut his hair. I tried to convince him, to-take him to a good barber shop and get him a nice hair cut and perhaps get a clean shirt. He politely refused, saying he will do those when his ailments are cured.

He pointed to his hands and said they are not functioning. They seemed perfectly fine to me. He said his body is melting, which again seemed perfectly fine to my eyes. I am not sure what he is suffering from. Perhaps, some kind of mental illness that needs proper care and treatment? Who would take the responsibility to do that for a stranger? I would, if I lived here., or if I was enabled to treat, but I am a mere vagabond, a traveler, who is neither her nor there.

Least I could do then was visit a pharmaceuticals nearby and inquired about this gentleman, they told me his story and I was dumbstruck. His original home town is Trichy some 300 Kilometers away from here. He has vast amount of land to live off of without having to work a day in his life. Yet, He ran away and came to Erode when his parents decided to get him married. He never went back. He has a sizable property to lead a rich life, a sister who visits him twice a month, at least until recently pleading him to come back with her.

Sri never budged. He remains happy and content, sleeping in strangers doorsteps, with his matted hair, eating idlis, smoking bidis and drinking teas. His sister apparently stopped coming since a few months ago, and no one knows if she is alive/dead. What a sad state is that?

The kind Pharmacist takes care of him, getting his hair cut periodically and treating him well. Perhaps, I’ll team up with him and convince him to get a clean shave and hair cut with new shirts, atleast while I’m here?

This makes me wonder, wealth, property, money, materialist shit we chase after, name, fame, glory, are all but an illusion isn’t it? Richness is but in ones mind. Some people chase after it, some choose to run away from it.

That Sri could very well be a millionaire, but he chose this life. He seems at peace with his choice, his dignity and self-respect intact.

Whilst we? 🙂

Sri will pass away one day, so will we, only difference is, he won’t have to worry about properties/disposals/savings/or other materialistic things we worry about.

Who is the rich person here? Sri or me? I cannot answer, I respect Sri.

Some might jot his decisions and state of mind down to mental illness, medically, practically speaking it could very well be, but, if that were the case I’d say that it’s a boon he got. May all things glory help him be safe, strong and happy.


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