Sunday, 5 May 2013

No Parking

A few years ago in the Sta Cruz district of Manila, a couple of old men lived on a street corner, one in a wooden cart, the other on an old sofa. I think they were former inmates of Manila city jail, which is nearby and when they could no longer look after themselves, they were just dropped off outside. One could not walk at all and the other could just move himself around with a couple of chunks of wood he’d salvaged.

A grim future awaited them, but somehow they were able to survive. People from the neighbourhood looked after them. A loaf of bread here and there, a cooked meal etc, everyone chipped in, in a casual manner.

Once I dropped off a bit of lunch with ‘the man on the sofa’ and he asked me for water, he had ran out and it was the height of summer. I had not thought of that; and slightly irritated went off again to get some. A couple of days later he died and the sofa was gone.

The man who lived in the cart lasted longer, he was always trying to walk everyday, sometimes pushing his cart along, although his mind was gone by this stage. 

Many street dwellers are scavengers, collecting scrap and anything saleable or usable and over time pieces of his cart started to disappear. First one end, then a whole side. (even his crutches vanished) By the time he died there wasn’t much left of it and what was left of his cart was dismantled and someone made a ‘No Parking’ Sign out of it.

I found it quite a fitting memorial or reminder, we are just passing through. Generally we live like we are planning to stay.

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