T’was a lovely day. We walked the Vegas strip, and admired the hotels. There was, of course, the MGM Grand, where we stayed. Then came New York, New York. Excalibur, Monte Carlo, Wynn. Big titles, bigger statuses.
Gold, gold every where! There was the ka-ching of coins and the shiny dazzle of the posh decor. Casinoes were packed with people. Always. At any given time. Some were the serious type of people, gambling for a purpose. Others were aimless youngsters doing it for no good reason.
Either ways, every one was happy at the prospect of money. Earning it, preferably. Some looked up from their roulette tables and smiled at me. But for the most, they were focused.
Hotel to hotel we walked. Looked. Admired. We were awed by most of them, and did the usual tourist stuff. Cheesed for pictures, eyed the water features. You know, the usual.
As the day became more senile, and the sun light was replaced by the famous Vegas lights, we headed on towards a water fountain musical extravaganza.
There were the usual people dressed up as characters from cartoons. So, we had three mickeys standing in a row, next to three minnies. All begging for tips.
Turns out, it’s not very different from India after all.
We saw a drunk Homer Simpson. And a Transformer. We giggled at A Dora who was wearing full orange pants. Dora wears shorts, we smirked.
But as time passed, we realized something was wrong. Dora stood in one spot, silent. There was the big smile stuck on her face, but. There was the occassional movement, but. There was something wrong.
People were flocking to the Transformer. He was cool to have a photo with. And they looked at Dora. Laughed at Dora. Mocked at Dora. And Dora stood still, watching silently.
As we continued observing, Dora gently lifted her big stuffed head. We expected to see a high-schooler doing this for money, or hey,maybe a cute guy, but what we saw left us stunned.
Inside was a wrinkly face of an old woman. Seventy, perhaps. She was sad. It was blatantly visible.
In that moment, she wasn’t Dora. She wasn’t a large stuffed toy with a monkey toy slung around a shoulder. She wasn’t a greedy beggar.
She was human.
She was a person with a life story. A history, a future. She was a person hidden behind the mask. And while everyone mocked the mask, she lay inside the dark suit, determined.
We were so moved. We grabbed some money and ran to her.
She hugged us tight. We tried to give her the money, but she didn’t even notice it ! She was so busy holding us and hugging us and posing for the camera.
When she finally noticed the money, she shyly opened her empty tips bag and we put the money in.
Have a lovely day, I whispered to her.
I didn’t change her life. A couple of dollars won’t make any difference. ‘Have a lovely day’ wouldn’t necessary get her a lovely day. She’s probably still going to see a million haters.
But, she made a difference in my life. She taught me that there, against the sharp contrast of the richest hotels of the world, there was injustice. Unfairness. Discrimination.
Of what use is all the gold in the world to a thirsty man ? Of what use is all the glamour and riches, if only a select few get to enjoy it ?
Riches may dazzle your eyes. Poverty opens your eyes.
And there, in the middle of the Vegas Strip, Dora changed my life.