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On my way home from a business engagement in India recently I encountered the street families in Mumbai.
I was unprepared for them. I have thought a lot about them since my return.

Rich Man's Guilt

Fdf5205c-8b5b-4da8-a6dc-63fe28d680a9by Billy J. Stewart31 Jan 2015

My but this is a decadent jolly,
Business Class, no less, once again.
I’ll have a Champaign thanks, since you ask.
Fillet Mignon too.
And a hot lemon face towel.
It’s a tough life.
And on landing, the VIP lounge calls me.
Sir this, and sir that.
I could get used to this aright!
Can we scratch sir’s back with an Amex Card..!?
That’ll do nicely.
Must get that perfume for the missus,
In Duty-free.
Money to burn, foreign currency to get rid,
Well I earned it, this past few weeks of hard toil,
Long days, exhaustion and stress, I deserve this.
Yes, I’ll boost the local economy, sure.
Couple of nice fridge magnets, Taj and Tiger.
Huh, yea, right.
Need to connect, executive taxi.
Ah leather trim, air-con. Only right.
Hurry, hurry, hurry.
Terminal 2 – please, jump on it.
And Mumbai opens before me,
All the little three-wheel rickshaws buggies,
Tooting endlessly at nothing and everything.
Beetling and weaving like hornets,
Through the evening sunset streets.
And there, ahead, pulling up at the lights I see them.
And they see me.
In charging, all at once they spill around the paused cars,
Scanning, touting, pawing,
Bee-line for the car with the paleface westerner.
Oh no, they found me, and on to my door window,
Tap, tap, tap.
The international language of hunger screaming at me,
In silent words.
The thin glass separating our two universes.
Their dark eyes catch my retreating soul,
For frozen seconds.
My host in the car says ignore, and I try hard to.
But I can’t.
We strike up a conversation about trees, or ice-cream, or anything.
Please lights, go green…..GO GREEN..!
We move off,
They still tap the window as we find a new gear.
And looking back I see them walking through the dust,
Back to the lights, disconsolate.
Trampling over my self-respect,
And my rich man’s guilt,
In bare feet,
Hunger unmet by my indifference.
Here we are, dust to dust...
Suddenly my discomforts seem small,
And my hedonistic opulence, excessive. Obscene.
On arrival I search the Duty-free in vain.
They don’t do clean consciences.
No boarding pass required.
God forgive me.