Today I saw a man nearly crushed by a speeding SUV. Well, I say nearly because he did not get crushed. He would have probably missed by a scale’s length or there around. The SUV was a sparkling black BMW. The man was a destitute in tattered clothes, unkempt hair, and a dirty frail body.

A few people stared angrily in the direction of the SUV. Some people yelled at the man asking him to watch where he was going. Most did not even bother to look up, and hurried on their way. The man was visibly shaken yet managed a broken smile, hung is head and walked away. I walked back home but with me many questions.

What would happen if the car actually hit the guy? Would anyone help him? Would the SUV driver have stopped to see what happened or would he just have fled away? What if he had died? Would the cops register a case and the driver be charged? Would he be imprisoned? He was a homeless guy. Would anyone have missed him if he died? Would it matter? Did his life have any value?

My mind conjures up several images during my thought process. I see the daily laborers working at construction sites working with practically no safety in place. Most of them are bare feet, and bring their children who play in the rubble strewn with rusted nails, wood splinters, and hazardous work all around. Even the house keeping staff in our plush offices, is their safety ever a concern? Many a times I have seen them empty the garbage and even take out the thrash from the WCs with their bare hands. Is their health of no concern? And what about the manual scavengers? Or the children working in hazardous workplaces like fireworks, or beedis or construction sites?

We come across these kinds of people everyday. They will knock on your window at signals. Some will try to clean your car. Some will beg. Some will sell some quirky wares. We see them pick through garbage collecting plastic, glass, etc. so that they can sell it and make a dime. But when they come in our sight, I know most of us will not even see them. We will just look straight ahead. They mean nothing to us. They are nothing. They do not exist.

My many questions have all brought me to a single disturbing question.

What is the intrinsic value of a life?

I don’t know if I have an answer. I don’t know if I want to hear one either.

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