There is a time I realized that my pain kept me protected for so long. That is when I also realized that it is not how powerful you are or how many resources you have or what has been your past victory which decides whether you can sail through. That is what Lyn said to herself that night…
Lyn was looked after by her grandmother, Biyu, in the city of Tianjin. Their bond was a very special one. Lyn was 10, had a fair complexion, soft velvety hair sitting flat in a blunt cut above her shoulders, and deep black eyes that were buried… thanks to her chubby cheeks. Her grandmother looked nothing like her, neither did her father. It was her mother whose features Lyn had inherited.
At a very young age, Lyn had understood the very meaning of being grateful. Had it not been for Biyu who was alive and close to Lyn when her parents had met with an accident, she would have been raised an orphan. Biyu was 60 and a retired school teacher. Her pension and the little money that Lyn’s parents had left behind was the only source of their livelihood.
Around the place where they lived there was a narrow footpath that led to Lyn’s school. Every day she would walk up to her school and come back from there, mostly alone. Biyu had understood that Lyn was a loner and had very few, yet, genuine interests, one of which was being with wild animals. She had realized it one day when they both had gone to a zoo in the Nankai district. They had spent half of their day at the water park and then Biyu had thought that probably Lyn would love to see the wild animals. All children do!
As it turned out, Lyn indeed loved the zoo and they returned happily at the end of their day out. After that day, very often Lyn would coax Biyu to take her out on the weekends. But Biyu would not always entertain her. It was important to save money for Lyn’s upbringing and education. So. But Lyn never stopped loving wild animals.
Life can be very uncertain at times and it can take you by complete surprise when it throws a problem at you. A problem that exhausts you in all your capacity. A problem that you feel is too big to deal with. But then, as time passes you realize that you can win if you have one thing… The knowledge of what is the direction of light. And, once you have that you need a will to keep walking in that direction.
Biyu had always lived by her own set of principles and so she knew that someday Lyn would reach where she wished to. She was assured that the dark clouds of difficulties will wade off in due time, they will rise above everything that was pulling them down and that Lyn would have a good, happy, fulfilled life.
But days and months and years do not pass as fast as thoughts drift through the mind… They take their own time. And with each passing day, Biyu realized this reality more intensely. She knew that one day she would be gone and she really dreaded that day. What would Lyn do after her? Who would take care of her? These were questions that constantly bothered her. But nonetheless, she lived each day with a hope for tomorrow, for Lyn, for herself…
On the narrow footpath that led to Lyn’s school, there used to be a rag-picker who would always sit behind the cars that were parked in that lane. Lyn would always see him when she would pass by. He used to have a soiled cloth bag to collect any bits of food from the dustbin on the street and a metal rod to shoo away any street dogs and protect himself in general. He would spend his entire day picking dirt and then, after sunset, would return to the same place in the parking lot to sort whatever he had collected to feed himself. That was his day. Everyday.
One day as Lyn was returning from school, she saw that the rag-picker was lying on the street with his hands on the sides. His soiled bag lay on his sides and saliva dripped from his mouth. He was breathing feebly and that is what Lyn rushed to see. She knew ever since her parents had died in front of her that unless a person stops breathing, he is alive.
Few people had gathered around the unconscious rag-picker. They were talking to each other, some feeling sorry, others worried that he was such a menace there. Lyn watched all of them and wondered if he had been sick. She wanted to understand why was he salivating? Quickly, she removed the napkin that Biyu used to pack for her along with her lunchbox and went ahead of the crowd and closer to him. Lyn then took out her water bottle and splashed all the leftover water onto his face and then wiped it with the napkin. Seeing her, another woman came ahead and helped Lyn raise the rag-picker and incline him to the nearby lamp post.
Two men then brought in some more water from a family in the nearby household and splashed it again on the rag-picker’s face in the hope that maybe he would regain his consciousness. Lyn was standing there thinking what to do next. Just then she remembered that once when a small child in their neighborhood had become unconscious, Biyu had placed a half-cut onion on his nose so that he could sniff it. She remembered that doing such a thing could help people regain their consciousness and so she told the woman who had helped her pick the rag-picker about it.
The lady liked Lyn’s idea and quickly went over to the house from where the men had brought the water and requested the family for a half-cut onion. She then returned where everyone was standing and gave the onion to Lyn. Lyn quickly placed it closely on the rag-picker’s nose with a slight pressure enabling him to breathe in through it while the others waited anxiously for the rag-picker to open his eyes.
About a minute later the rag-picker moved a bit and everyone sighed. Lyn took the onion closer to his nostrils and the lady from whose house the onion and the water had been brought, who was seeing all this from a distance, quickly went inside her house to get some sugar. By the time she came out, the rag-picker had gained his consciousness and so she asked Lyn to put some sugar into his mouth and then give him some water to drink. Lyn did as the woman told and the rag-picker’s condition improved. After about five minutes he was able to sit on his own without any support and also get a hold of himself.
The woman then went back to her house and squeezed in half a lemon in a glass of cold water and added some salt, sugar and cumin powder to it. She quickly stirred the mixture, came out and handed over the glass to Lyn so that she could help the rag-picker sip the lime juice. Lyn held the glass until he drank all of the juice and about five minutes later, he was able to stand up on his own. The crowd then started dispersing seeing that there was nothing to worry about.
Everyone praised Lyn and the women and the men who had helped the poor rag-picker, especially Lyn because she was the one to take the first step. Before Lyn was about to leave, she asked the rag-picker as to why was it that he had fainted to which he replied that for some reason he had not been able to get any food for two days. It was summer, his body could not sustain itself to the heat and, he collapsed…
Lyn felt very sorry for him and returned back home with a heavy heart. Biyu was worried as Lyn was late but when Lyn told her all that had happened, she felt very proud of her. Lyn quickly freshened herself and the two of them sat down for dinner. While enjoying her favorite shark fin soup that Biyu had made, Lyn suddenly remembered what the rag-picker had said about not getting food for almost two days and she stopped eating.
Biyu looked at Lyn and asked her what had happened when she replied if she could give some food to the rag-picker as he was hungry and had fainted because of it. Biyu hesitated at first but realized that Lyn would not budge and so she agreed on the condition that Lyn should take her along as it was quite dark outside. Both of them quickly finished their dinner and then took the food that they had kept aside for the rag-picker.
When Biyu and Lyn reached the narrow lane where the rag-picker used to sleep at night, they saw that he was sitting there as always. Biyu then gave the food bag to Lyn so that she could give it to him.
When Lyn went over to the rag-picker, he recognized her and happily took the food that she gave. Just as Lyn was about to leave, the rag-picker told Lyn that she too would have to take something from him in return. Biyu, who was listening to the conversation from a distance hinted to Lyn to convey it to the rag-picker that nothing was required in return. Lyn did as she was told, but the rag-picker said that he would not take the food unless Lyn agreed to take something from him.
Biyu then came closer to the two of them and intervened in the conversation as it was getting too late and they had to return home. She agreed with the rag-picker and asked him what he had to give to Lyn. The rag-picker gave Lyn a small kitten that he had found in the dustbin that day. She was newly born and very frail. He told Lyn that it would be fine if she did not give him food, he was grown up and could take care of himself. But the kitten needed food until she grew up and so it would be better than Lyn would give her some milk for a few days.
Lyn loved the kitten and thanked the rag-picker for giving her a sweet companion. She promised him that she would take care of the kitten as he had asked her to do and that she would also give him food whenever he needed it because they were friends now.
The rag-picker was very happy at Lyn’s gesture and raised his hands to bless her. Lyn expressed her love back by thanking him again and taking the kitten home.
Biyu realized how compassionate Lyn was and she felt happy that no matter what happens, she will always make through the most difficult situations in life with a smile. She felt that Lyn’s goodness was her biggest strength and greatest virtue and that would take her much ahead.
From that day onward, Biyu treated Lyn as if she was a grown-up and stopped worrying for her. They both returned home contented and made some room for the kitten in their small house. As usual, Lyn set up the bed for the two of them and made some space for the kitten in the veranda. She gave her some warm milk and ensured that she had slept before heading to sleep with Biyu.
Lying down on the bed Lyn looked at the ceiling and felt, she was so protected. She realized that her pain was a gift from God that had kept her safe. In many ways, she was living a life that had been a struggle, yet her core was intact. Her soul was intact. And that was the most important thing!