When in Athens, the living reality is a confluence of the past and the present. In the presence of the Parthenon, a classical temple, I was a prime witness to one of the finest works of ancient Greece. The December sun burst in between the magnificent Doric columns casting gigantic shadows over irregular boulders that lay in the vicinity of the ruined site. The south-eastern side is home to the theatre of Dionysus which marks the beginning of the European theatre.
On a fair weathered day, one can see a minuscule model of a Greek orthodox church situated on top of Lycabettus Hill. On the Western slopes, a prominent rock formation known as the Areopagus boasts the presence of Apostle Paul and heralds the beginning of the Christian era.
On climbing down the winding road that leads to the Monastiraki square, I crossed a colourful array of restaurants with impressive views of the Roman Agora and the temple of Hephaestus. On reaching the square, I took a left and made my way towards the famous flea market. Luckily, it was a Sunday and the shop windows were stocked with souvenirs that paid homage to the spirit of Greece. In the midst of an uncertain and declining economy, the Greeks fight their everyday battles with courage and a bold temperament. In the market place, I was greeted with healthy handshakes and cheerful smiles.
Looking around for the perfect souvenir to take back home, I was drawn towards a magnet depicting the victory of Athina, the patron goddess of Athens, over Poseidon, the ruler of the seas. I put my hand into my jeans’ pocket to take out my wallet only to find that it was missing! Even though most of my valuables were left at the hotel, I was running short of €90. I informed the seller of my loss and was about to leave when I was stopped short by a woman and a young boy.
I recognised them as the mother and son who were begging for alms in front of the Hadrian’s library. Before I could act, she paid the three Euros to seller and placed the magnet in my hands. When I began my protest, she mumbled something in Greek, took a polite bow and left the shop. With the magnet in my hand, I stood staring at the two figures as they made their way through the market place. Rooted to my spot, I followed them with my eyes until they became one with the crowd.
In our brief encounter, I noticed her shabby clothes and unkept hair. She was not past her forties and the scar on her left cheek was either a result of an accident or experience, I couldn’t tell. To this day, I know not what she had said but every time I look at the magnet, it reminds me that “small acts of kindness when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world”.
Note: This post was submitted as a part of the World Nomads travel writing competition 2018.