Last evening, I had to avail an Uber ride home, and since I was flat broke, and only had the smallest of changes, I had to stop by an ATM.
While coming out of the booth, I saw a young man in his early twenties. He was sadly maimed at all fours, lying only on his torso, and in an awkward turned turtle position, he was begging for alms. Visibly, his motor skills looked poor. His arms and legs had no strength in them. I immediately felt bad for him, and courteously put down all my remaining change, a Tk 50 note and a few tenners, in his empty blue plastic bowl, quickly mumbled a few sorry words, and left.
While getting into the car, my eyes impulsively turned towards him. He was showing off the notes to the rickshaw puller next to him, and sported what looked to be a million-dollar smile for a split second.
I felt very disappointed with myself, and felt a twinge of jealousy — how happy could someone be with the little bit of change I had had and thought it to be valuable, while me — the ingrate, felt so inadequate with those very notes in my pocket. “What kind of a materialistic person am I?” I thought, ashamed of myself.
However, my pessimism lasted for but a wee moment, when I saw, to my utter surprise, how that boy ever so casually rubbed off the smirk off his face, pulled the bowl up, emptied its contents into another duplicate blue plastic bowl that was undetectably lying below the first one. And with a poker face, he took that exact position in front of the first bowl and resumed business as usual.
I was flabbergasted — not just because I was outfoxed by someone like that, but also because he made me feel naïve. I quickly gathered my wits and laughed hard, surely he is the smarter one, and I was happy for him. He needs to be smart and cocky in order to survive in his world on the streets. Just like I need to be brash in order to survive in mine.
Come to think of it, even in our glitzy and glamourous world, only the cockiest survive, with their intellect truly shining when the need arises to swindle someone, letting them pass off bad ideas to their bosses, business partners, or just society at large, until those schemes start paying off for them.
Anyway, I have strayed far. All I am trying to say is that perhaps we retire the phrase “Survival of the fittest” and usher in “Survival of the craftiest.” I have said it before, and this latest incident just cements that belief.