It was a humid, sultry night. Smell of spices and burning charcoal filled the streets. The hawkers gathered their wares closing in on their busy days as the sun set on the old, pious town in Karauli, Rajasthan, twenty years ago.
A little girl holding her mama’s hand, gets off the train and boards a bus full of strangers. The long day sits heavy on her eyelids but she is trying to stay awake as she knows she must. The smell of incense wafts the air like a prayer. A thin old man is singing a country folklore. His milky eyes glazed over, rolled up as if in prayer and his voice is like the soft murmur of water flowing downhill on a shallow pebbled, river bed. In his hands he carries a wooden box of incense. A small black cloth pouch hangs off his right hand to collect money. He stops briefly at every seat, giving the passengers a chance to buy his incense. Lightly touching the seats as he passes for sense of direction and balance.
Mama does not need incense but she buys some anyways and dutifully drops something in his pouch, making a tiny jingle. The old man nods and moves on.
When he is done he goes to the front of the bus and stands next to the driver to finish his song. Some of the passengers have joined him in his chant, others clap in tune. The bus draws to a halt at the next stop and the old man intuitively gets down and leaves.
The little girl tugs her mama’s hand and asks if the blind man will find his way. Her mother nods, “Yes,he will. I have seen him selling incense, since I was as old as you. He always find his way”. The girl smiles back wanly, wide awake now. The bus drives to a rest house and the two of them get out.
“But what if someone cheats him mama?” she continues clearly concerned. “What if someone steals his incense and does not pay him? He can’t see, won’t it be easy to cheat him?” Mama shakes her head and says, “No, they won’t my darling. Trust is blind…”
It’s been twenty years since that day, I never had a chance to visit that town again. Yet, I remember the day as if it happened yesterday. Memory is like a strange box, that can preserve random incidents forever, while the most lucid, current experiences escape it like air. I don’t know what happened to that old incense seller. I trust he lived a long and peaceful life.
A lot changes in twenty years. Today, trust and faith are commodities hard to come by. Yet I do believe that sometimes it is better to trust and be cheated than lead a life with the doors and windows of your heart closed. When I find myself helpless and in doubt, I remind myself of my mama’s words; trust is blind and faith fills our hearts like incense.