Closeup of a poor shepherd in India; grizzly beard, dusty capI wish this were a happy story – a story to uplift and inspire. Or at least to amuse and entertain. But it’s not happy at all. It’s sad.

And the sadness is deep and eternal, random and entirely unnecessary. It is a sadness which is at the heart of the human condition and for which, it seems, there is no easy solution.

You know this man. His name is Ram Chandra and I have written about him many times – here and here, for instance – but in case you don’t like links, I will just say that Ram Chandra is a shepherd in our neighborhood who works very hard, loves his animals, is extremely poor and has multiple disabilities.

A little capsule portrait which doesn’t – anymore than the picture above – do justice to his complexity or charm.

Last night my friend Malvika called me in some distress. “That man, the shepherd, the one you wrote about on your blog?” she said. “Someone is beating him up here in Lovely Market and a whole gang of people are watching it happen and laughing.”

Vikram and I jumped into the car and raced as fast as we could. It’s only a kilometer away but the roads are bad and by the time we got there, it was all over. Malvika was waiting for us but Ram Chandra had disappeared and the man who had been beating him was sitting with his friends and chatting. Unconcerned.

“Is he drunk?” I asked Malvika.

“He has to be,” she replied. “How else could such a thing happen?”


Malvika, people don’t have to be drunk to be casually cruel. I went up to the man (he was wearing a black and yellow striped shirt and, as Malvika pointed out, he looked like a giant bumble bee) and asked him what had happened. He was surprised, then vague, then insistent –  in the space of seconds. His main point was that it had all been in fun. Ram Chandra had enjoyed it as much as he had.

We went then in search of Ram Chandra, to see if he was ok and to find out if he had enjoyed it as much as his tormentor had.

We found him near his home and he was transparently glad to see us. As he always is. Ram Chandra cannot speak, but he is a gifted signer and he managed to let us know that he still had to milk his cows before he could eat and only after that would he be able to sleep. When we asked him what had happened at Lovely Market, his eyes filled with tears, but he didn’t sign anything.

We got the message.

“Are you ok now?” I asked.

Thumbs up. Ever cheerful. Why should I bother you with my troubles?

We said goodnight and went back to the car. But I couldn’t let go of the chance to get through to the bumblebee.

I went back to where he had been and found him about to take off on his motorbike. I told him we had found Ram Chandra and that he was crying. That I had a daughter like Ram Chandra and would he also think it was funny to beat her up? That Ram Chandra was a human being just like him and that having a disability didn’t mean other people had the right to make assumptions about what he liked and what he didn’t.

But my words sounded hollow even to me. Where do you begin? How do you make a dent in a mind so convinced of its own cleverness?

As we returned home, Vikram said we should do an awareness program right there at Lovely Market. And we will.

But is this really how it has to happen? One person, one neighborhood at a time? Is there not some Omega Point we can reach collectively, when suddenly the human race will wake up as one and understand the truth?

The Good Shepherd with his cow - cow is licking the shepherd's head; shepherd is leaning back in ecstasy

Not bloody likely.

Here’s Ram Chandra in a moment of transcendence with one of his cows; a moment which leaves me speechless in astonishment at all that I do not know and cannot fully appreciate and keeps me mindful of all that we still have to learn.

Let it be soon.



Showing 9 comments
  • Mamta

    I weep as I type this out….it has affected me even more for I just heard someone recount an experience of being humiliated by someone in power just because she is welll..’in power’ and an ‘accepted bully’…when someone who is strong and can speak out feels compelled to not do so, what will ‘the good shepherd ‘ do?…amen to that ‘omegas point’..thank you for writing so beautifully Jo…

    • Jo McGowan Chopra

      Thanks, Mamta. If enough of us keep sharing our stories, maybe that change will come . . .

  • Sidd

    It’s time the Bumble Bee got stung.
    It broke my heart to read this.

    I think letting people get away with little or no consequence for their actions does nothing to improve the situation.
    The awareness program idea will be great, I think.

    • Jo McGowan Chopra

      Ram Chandra is the victim of constant callousness and ill-treatment. I’ve stopped boys from throwing stones at him and I’ve defended him from my own neighbors who accuse him of wandering around just to case their houses for a later robbery.


  • Savita

    I just can’t believe anybody to be such inhuman… oh it is so upsetting, painful and disgusting at the same time. Jo, I know you are not going to leave it at this point only, you have to be tactful while dealing with this kind of notorious characters.
    I couldn’t control my tears while reading it… poor Ram Chandra, we have to save him from such callous and insensitive people.

    • Jo McGowan Chopra

      I’m glad I believe in heaven. What a surprise awaits all those who have ill-treated him! Imagine their astonishment when he walks into the Holy throne as an honored and dearly loved child of God – the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

  • Banno

    Jo, this is horrifying. How can beating up someone like Ram Chandra be fun? ‘Enjoy’??

    Someone has to just look at him to know what a lovely soul he is. We can see that in the pictures, how difficult is it for his neighbors to see?

  • Lloyd Nebres

    I remember what you wrote previously about Ram, and was deeply touched by it, as it reminded me of something quite similar in my own childhood.

    But as I read the above, it struck me quite forcefully that it’s people like the Bumblebee that also desperately need our compassion. They are the truly damaged among us, whose humanity has been wounded somehow, and who need help. Probably as much as, if not more than, people like Ram.

    You were right to go back and seek out the bully, and to ask him such penetrating, challenging questions. It’s the first, hopeful, step in trying to heal him. And, by extension, all of us.

  • Sucheta

    I have no words. I wish I could help Ram in any way possible, wish I could at least be there to see if he wasn’t hurt. I wish I could help people like the bumblebee become human.

    Thank you for sharing this. I couldn’t stop the tears.

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