Sadhu Ram and Most of Us

Some months ago I noticed a handsome young man of about thirty intently searching in the pile of garbage on the side of the main entrance to our Whitefield Park. I was curious. I watched him to see what he was looking for; in a moment it became clear it was food. He found small plastic bags in which people throw away breadcrumbs or cooked rice and vegetables. He picked them up, opened them and ate the food that appealed to him. His method of work was fast and efficient. His eye focused on food bags and his hand expertly picked them. It seemed he was aware of curious watchers but it was of no concern to him for he paid no attention. Very likely their glare made him uncomfortable but he did not show it and avoided eye contact. I later understood that his reason for working early in the morning was to avoid watchers.

I do not know his name, but I began calling him Sadhu Ram. I imagined him as a lovely baby and his parents lovingly giving him a nice Kannada name. The name I have given him is north Indian but it’s meaning is quite befitting and nice. Sadhu means a simple quiet social rebel and Ram is the Great Spirit in all of us as the animator. His real name probably ends with Appa as usual in Karnataka.

I began to be on the lookout for him and saw him every morning and some days more than once at different spots. He wears a shirt and pants, both at least two sizes too big. His shirt has about half its buttons gone and the pants have none. To hold the pants up he ties a string around his waist. His pants’ fly has neither zipper nor buttons, but since the pants are over sized one side overlaps the other and adequately covers his genitals. He seems concerned not to appear indecent even though he is unwashed and his long jet-black hair is beginning to become matted. His small beard is quite handsome but unkempt. It’s his habit to avoid eye contact with the strangers on the street.

I notice that he has settled down on the side of one of our main roads. The ground is loose mud and behind him is a row of small rarely opened warehouses. The winter here was quite chilly this year. Some kind person must have noticed that Sadhu had no bedding and must be cold. He would have given him a couple of blankets and a heavy sheet. He seems to be comfortable. To relieve himself he goes to a vacant plot near our house. It is overgrown with tall bushes to provide adequate privacy. I also notice that some people are bringing him food so that he does not have to scrounge garbage heaps.

I learned that one of his benefactors is a young lady who lives in our housing complex. She told me that she not only gives him food but also sometimes sits with him to give company. He seems to appreciate genuine friendly companionship but does not reveal anything about himself. One day this lady was coming back from her work about midnight on a motorcycle. Some street dogs started chasing her. They stopped her and started barking threateningly. She was scared out of her wits and did not know what to do.

Sadhu Ram was watching. He rushed to the scene and shooed the dogs away. The lady was relieved. She thanked Sadhu Ram and came home.

On three occasions I walked quietly behind Sadhu Ram. He was babbling. I did not understand because I do not know the Kannada language. But it was obvious he was talking out loud the thoughts that were coming to his mind. I do not have any idea how much of the time Sadhu babbles but the thought came to my mind ‘Oh, how like most of us!’ We do it quietly in our minds and some of us do it all the time. Sadhu Ram does it loudly and perhaps just a few hours daily.

February 21, 2009