The writings of Bill Mousoulis
Glimpses of Greece:
writes: “When you set out on your journey to
/ Pray that the road is long / full of adventure, full of knowledge”, but I
wonder how these words apply to all the refugees and migrants one sees
my last evening in the peaceful port city of
Volos, I dine out on the promenade, alone,
looking out to the boats in the bay and dreaming.
typical luminous stillness is made even more beautiful by the oncoming sunset.
order a small pizza and a Greek salad. The salad is enormous, and I have to leave half of it. A beggarwoman comes up to me and asks me for
money. She is Indian, mid-20s, lean,
clean, with long hair that is tied back. She is aggressive. I say No, but
I offer her the salad. She stops for a
moment, considers, and decides to accept my offer. Of course, she can hardly pocket the tomato
and cucumber and onion pieces and walk away. So she takes a seat.
plate of salad came with a spoon, so she starts eating it with that. She stops, looks around, gets a salt shaker
from another table, applies liberal amounts of it to the food. She eats slowly, gracefully, a far cry from
the scowly, aggressive personality that first presented itself.
sits opposite me. The view I had in
front of me was the gulf, the water, the “whole world” as it were. Now I have another “world” in front of me, an
inner world, the world of a wayfarer, of a lost soul perhaps, a soul living an “alternate
life” (on the other side of etiquettes and duties).
consider talking to her. She starts
talking herself, but only to ask me for money again. And what a strange language she speaks. It seems to be a mix of Hindi with Greek. I decide to not converse with her. Her begging is forceful and desperate. Once I said no again, she became calm again,
and continued eating gracefully. The
desperation is probably an act.
some minutes, she finishes the meal, carefully wipes her mouth with a
serviette, places the empty plate on the other plates, and stands up. She doesn’t say “Thank You” to me, but she
looks at me with an acknowledging glance. Moreover, there is a resigned and rueful look on her face, as if to say “Ah
well, I was human for a second, now back to the grindstone”. And yes, she immediately walks up to other
tables and again is aggressive in her begging. One table is as forceful back at her, and there is an exchange of
insults. And I see one person looking
askance at me for having allowed her to sit at my table.
next day, I am at the bus station, I am leaving
comes up to me and recognises me. And we
start conversing, small talk. And she
smiles. Is a smile the privilege of the
happy? Or actually the
privilege of the human? The day
before, I’m pretty sure she would’ve found it far easier to produce a double
somersault than produce a smile.
time, I give her money. She sees the
bags at my feet and realises I am catching a bus to somewhere. In her broken Greek, she wishes me a “good
road”. Not a good journey, but a good
road. We journey on a road – the journey is the interior, the road the exterior. It’s less romantic saying “road”.
For myself, an Australian travelling in
luxury of dual citizenship behind him, having a good journey, a good road …
well, it’s a piece of cake, really.
for this strange beggarwoman, capable of both aggressive ugliness and graceful
beauty, what is her journey? Did she
leave the frying pan only to land in the fire? And where is she heading? Is she
alone? Will she have a family? Will she end up completely destitute?
Beggar’s Blues is a mixed-up music. On
the one hand, there is no dignity in the act of begging. And on the other hand, beggars are
opportunists, able to get money “for free”.
as your life is, my good little Indian woman, I too wish you a good road.
© Bill Mousoulis 2010
This article first appeared in Neos Kosmos, 6 Sep, 2010. reference