Thursday, June 29, 2006

A pizza without shame or thanks

Tonight, dinner was take-away from Pizza Hut. When we returned to our car with four pizzas and a salad, we found the wipers up. Someone had cleaned the windscreen, and was now going to ask for money for this unasked-for service.

Sure enough, as is usual, a child turned up. We got in the car, talking, and in a hurry to "deal with" the kid - i.e. to pay him with short change - left the pizza sitting on the roof of the car when the cleaner kid pointed out, "pizza!" My brother thanked him nonchalantly, put the pizzas on the back seat, and paid the kid. I had managed to find a few coins in the dark nooks and corners of my wallet too.

But. I thought the kid had asked for pizza! It was cleared a moment later that the kid had reminded us we might be driving of with pizzas on top of the car. But still my heart had said the kid had asked for pizza, and I better listen to my heart any time it speak because it doesn't sleep at night if ignored during the day. This heart!

I am slightly mean. My heart is shy to give. In my life I have been lucky to have at least seen people with an extraordinary heart - and they weren't rich or anything. In fact the most important thing those people, who in my view have a big heart, do is to simple stop and take stock of their surroundings. I see them not just walking off or away, but stopping, and asking: "Can I help?"

Tentatively, I suggested to my brother that we should offer a slice - just a slice because I am slightly mean, or rather, afraid of doing good - to the child. My brother said no, money is enough. I said well, why not pizza? So I gave the kid a slice. He got away with money and the pizza. And sure enough, within seconds popped up a second kid, this time asking for pizza.

"See, that is why," my brother said as he backed the car up. "Thankless!"

Thankless? I asked. Who is thankless? Them, or us? Who are we to make anyone thankful to us when we don't know where our next piece of bread comes from and what makes us imagine it's rightfully earned? Do we know we'd be able to reach home and have that pizza? Who brings us back home safe and puts food on our table?

Only a month ago, I had made a fervent prayer that was answered immediately. I asked shamelessly and without reserve. I can afford a few pizzas every now and then, with a Mountain Dew, and still I am not ashamed to ask and still I am not ashamed to make all sorts of tall promises that I will do this and that and change the world and open my heart and serve with my soul once my prayer is answered oh yes I will and I still forget to fulfill any promise the moment my prayers are answered and I am still asking and I am thankless and slightly mean.

Since I am afraid of doing good in a world where most of us deeply wish to extend hands and help and be good but are ashamed of everyone else - and because I am not in that very fortunate category of people who would ask, "Can I help?" without the slightest degree of self-importance or expectation of reward or showing off... we drove off.

I could not take out another slice, though I really don't eat that much and if no one were looking or asking, I'd buy a whole pizza for those kids. I don't eat that much. Pizza or salt-less daal taste the same to me because in my life, I have tasted much and nothing means anything to me anymore. No longer does a pizza make me feel like I am partying. Life is real.

The second kid was only perhaps deprived of a meager slice of pizza. But I am deprived of a feeling of wholeness and happiness. Who am I, on God's earth, to ask for thanks? When at having my prayers answered much more lavishly than I had dreamt of, I did not have the courage to return to the soul of the world the good that it has put in my lap.

Shame on me!


  1. A thought provoking post. I hope that you and I can listen to our hearts and souls.

  2. truly beautiful and very moving....
    makes one reconsider a lot of things...

  3. your post hit home for me..especially the part about being afraid to do good...its a feeling that I couldn't put to words...I hope to act on it next time the opportunity crops up..I am sure you have... (: