Babu, the clochard ( homeless) Nepalese cook died last night underneath a Doric column of the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa's temple of Culture. This sad story is being repeated all over the World
I am particularly touched by Babu's death because I met him briefly this summer when he used to be the cook for Don Vincenzo Pascale - the Parish Priest of the Church of Saint Joseph the Protector.
Don Vincenzo's non-profit foundation of which I am a contributor, feeds 70 people every day, three times a day. It isn't slop either. They eat pasta, meat with vegetables, salad, fresh fruits, then coffee and/tea.
Babu was ill and his indifference towards his own health was evident even then. He had diabetes, lost the sight of one eye and wore a glass eye after the operation to save his other eye. He never adhered to his diet and became a silen but constant drunk.
After two years of attempting to help him Don Vincenzo said"Babu, it's either AA or the streets."
Babu chose the streets.
Life on the streets is mean and merciless. In Genoa, the Italian Riviera, an unusually frigid winter has come upon the city this year. Volunteers, priests and nuns can be seen around the city's center, distributing woolen blankets, hot meals and tea to the homeless.
Alas! the fur and bejeweled set which pass by Galleria Mazzini every day or who attend the opera or other theatrical performances in Teatro Carlo Felice, which is an integral part of the tony Galleria objected to the presence of huddled Babus, Sonias, Federicos, Mahmouds,Vlads and Sashas.
" Look, these clochard are defacing the clean lines of the entrance to the theater. Their rags ( actually clean blankets) are strewn all over the place. We are risking disease and infections," they angrily told the Carabinieri on their mobile telephones or the police or the Amiu - the public entity responsible for keeping the city clean.
The rich must always be happy. I mean they vote and probably corrupt the political leaders with their money. Who are the homeless? Nobodies. Why! they have no say in anything. They take up space. They are useless eaters. After all, they are still paying top Eurodollars to attend Carlo Felice, unlike the Met in New York which reduced their tickets by a thousand %.
The employees of Amiu no doubt fearing for their jobs, came en masse last night and took all the blankets belonging to the clochard and threw them inside the dumpsters.
The poor and the homeless have a great deal of dignity. You might say nay because some of them supposedly beg. Personally, I have never seen the likes of Babu beg, even if he was an alcoholic and his organism craved for the stuff.
Babu died of hypothermia last night. The companions who slept close to him never knew he was gone until this morning.
We have all said a prayer for Babu in our household. He was a Buddhist and he had accepted his karma. He is in a better place now. Rest in peace at last, Babu.
I have nothing but contemp and disdain for my fellow human beings who pretend not to see and perhaps have innured themselves never to see the misery and the suffering of those who for some reason or another have lost a roof over their heads.
It is our duty to help those have nots. It is not Christian to report them to the police for irritating us by sleeping in our courtyards, galleries and foyers of our palazzi.
Go to them. You don't have to converse with them. That is the last thing they need or wish for. Bring a heavy blanket, a thermos of hot tea, another one of tepid water, some fruits such as bananas, kumquats or leechees which do not need to be peeled with a knife.
That man in rags or tatters could well be Jesus.
It might even be you or one of your loves ones.
Can you ever be sure?
I am not going to wish anyone a Happy New Year. I always thought that phrase was banal and entirely without meaning. I don't believe in Happiness anyway. At least not the way it has been propagandized.
None of us is entitled to Happiness. We must fight for it. First of all inside our souls, then our spirits, and lastly in our hearts and minds.
With those words I wish you a year of Serenity and Grace under pressure in a difficult and challenging 2009 which promises to be anything but "Happy."
May God help us all provided we help ourselves first.