Chapter 4: A New Perspective
My father said to me, “Then it is better that whenever anybody comes into the house, you simply move from this place. Don’t remain there to confront the man, to confront us and to create an embarrassing situation. Now what will that man think?”
I had said everything in front of him. He became really nervous when I said, “I can recognize this man’s walk and how he killed the man. Just because you are insisting, I am not going to the police station. Otherwise, this man is a murderer.”
Hearing this he almost started trembling and perspiring. I said, “Look at him. He should touch my feet, otherwise I am going to the police.” And the man touched my feet because he knew that I had seen him. He had seen me seeing him - I was the only eyewitness.
It was not late, just nine o’clock in the evening, and in front of my house there was a small, dark street. He was hiding in that street as the man passed on the road; the man’s shop was nearby, and the time in India to close a shop is nine o’clock.
So everything was settled: nine o’clock he would close his shop, and he would walk in front of my house - because his house was there, four houses away, and that was the best place, because the murderer could hide in the darkness. There was not even a lamp post. Electricity had not come yet to that place. I saw him come out of the street.
It was a hot summer night, and I have never felt at ease with heat. Cold I love, heat I simply hate. So, I was just sitting on my bed waiting for the air to cool down a little, and then I would go to sleep. At that very moment the case happened. The man was not aware that I was sitting on my bed on the terrace, because all the lights of the house were off and everybody had gone to sleep. I was in darkness, and as he came out of the street I immediately recognized the man, although he had a black cover over his face.
I told my father, “Now look. You touched a murderer’s feet, just because he is a little older than you. But there are men, donkeys, many bulls and many dogs older than you, older than me. If this is the rule - that I have to touch the feet of anybody who is older than me - then perhaps I should commit suicide, because I cannot continue from morning to night touching everybody’s feet. Do you think I don’t have any other work?”
These are subtle strategies to distract the child from his innocence. If he follows the convention, the tradition, he is rewarded. I was always punished, never rewarded, but I accepted each punishment with great dignity because each punishment made me a more solid individual. They were not aware that they were unknowingly helping me; their rewards would have been bribes, their punishment gave me mettle.