A man came up to us, his shirt unbuttoned, gathered around his shoulders, so we could see his chest. And my god, I saw his skin was covered in horrific scars. The flesh was mottled and that peculiar shade of pink you get with really bad burns. He stood there so we could get a good look.
We were not going anywhere, it was a traffic junction and the signal was on a 90-second cycle. So yes, we looked. He meant us to. And we gave him some money. Which is what he wanted.
Who can blame him, I don't know if he can find work anywhere with such terrible injuries. The skin must feel so tight and itch like crazy.
Years ago I used to go regularly meet an acid attack survivor Haseena Hussain. Her ex-boss poured litres of sulphuric acid on her, when she spurned him. She lost her eyesight, most of her facial features, even her internal organs were affected in the corrosive effect of the acid. She once told me that her skin becomes so tight that her mother needs to keep massaging some kind of moisturiser into her skin. Coconut oil works the best, she said.
I don't know if that man at the traffic junction can afford anything to keep his skin supple. But seeing him show us his skin got me thinking. Here is this man who has lost all dignity, because he needs to make a living. But then, every day, we see film stars, celebrities, society people, our 'role models'--show skin. For various reasons, of course.
Even we, in our daily life, get to decide how much skin we show that day. If I'm going to pick up little man from his school, I dress soberly. If we're going out with friends, or planning a holiday at a resort, then I go bolder. If I go on assignment, I wear ethnic clothes, to a pub, I opt for Western wear. My choice of clothes is even dictated by the places I go to.
But that man, he had not much by way of choice, really.
He has to show skin, to make a living.