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Helped by known and Unknown- friends

 

Over the years, I received help from many people ; known and unknown to me. Even those known were not my mates. Those unknown have remained unknown. Yet, I prefer to call both as, friends. Those who helped were neither heroes; nor were they looking for glory. The help they rendered was not the kind that is flashed  across the TV screens as ‘Breaking News’. They did not exactly jump into suburban railway trench to pull somebody out from in front of a moving train; nor did they jump into an inferno to save a kid; nor did they beat up a dozen goons to rescue a damsel in distress. What they did was more on the level of common decency than heroism. Each one of them was just a selfless stand-up person in a time of need. It was not the size of their good deed; it was not how small or big it was; but, it was their kindness that mattered.

Bombs do not bust every day; deluge does not inundate the city every day; but , every minute every day somewhere someone needs help. It is not often you see people help each other. That , sadly,  says something about the society we live in. Therefore, when  an ordinary person living a  dreary life takes a step  and helps another ordinary person in need, it stands out as an idiom of  kindness.

In the early sixties, most of us went to Bombay  driven not merely by the need to earn a living , but also  by the impatience to escape from the confines of claustrophobic small towns; and to move on to a broader arena that provided scope and opportunities to discover and to realize our potential or dreams. There was an urge to achieve; burning desire to become something in life; or to find a meaning for your existence.  That was a forerunner to the migration of today’s youth to the West. I realize it may sometimes be important where you are placed; that certainly is not as important as who you are and what you aspire to become.

All of us were without resources of any sort. Only a few among us were blessed with some talent. The rest were run of the mill, untrained and unskilled; yet, each nurtured a dream to come good. We were strangers in a big city enclosed in an unfriendly neighborhood.

The big cities like New York and Bombay share certain characteristics. A large section of its population comes from other towns and countries. Every other person there, is virtually a stranger, busily pursuing his own short listed agenda.  The shroud of anonymity the city throws on its clueless strangers is often a perverted blessing. It lets you the freedom to degenerate; to be rid of shame; and throw away the yardstick of decency that until then caned you into submission. You live as you can afford to or as you are allowed to; and not as expected of you by the standards set by your elders.  The lonely freedom the city lets you wander into is like being lost in vacant space without purpose. It is a burden that weighs on your shoulders that cry out for a hug. Being alone in a crowd, to stray away into these forests drear / Alone, without a peer (John Keats), is a pain. It is one of those phases in life when you crave for love, hoping desperately it would rescue you from loneliness and shame.

As you find your feet, you discover the city has a heart, hidden in its  folds. As Didier said, “Every city has at its heart a village; and that village has a heart.” You will never understand the city unless you understand the village in it. You come across that face of the city in strange ways , like suddenly coming upon a dazzling smile or a pair of bewitching eyes set in a scarred face.

***

*

Four of us shared a nondescript chawl in Girgoan, central Bombay. Two of us had minimum wage jobs in Dalal Street area. By about the third week of the month we would usually be broke, besides being behind on rent and the utilities.

On one rainy evening in the last week of June, when the lower areas of Bombay were inundated by storm waters and  backlash from high tides at the Worli sea, we were trying to figure out, rather loudly, ways to find the next meal. A Bihari who recently moved into the adjoining room overheard us; introduced himself and wanted to help. We went through a range of emotions. We were skeptic, embarrassed, ashamed, and slightly irritated; and did not know how to respond. He insisted ; and took me to a near by kirana (grocery) store owned by his gaon _wala (village mate);  and got us, on credit , a week’s grocery, on his guarantee. We had a hot and a full meal after a long time, thanks to Bihari babu.

It may now look only a small gesture but it really meant a lot to me. The credit arrangement helped us get past a very rough patch. I send my thanks to Bihari wherever he might be.

**

Monsoon months of June-July do strange things to Bombay and its people. It is the worst season to commute but it sometimes brings the best out of its people, even from its scum.

On one late evening when heavy down pour and high tides in the Worli Sea coincided, I was stranded in Lower Parel, a low laying area, flooded more than knee high deep. I took shelter near a modest apartment building. Even at 9 in the night the rains did not subside ; and, the street continued to be choked. There was no way I could reach anywhere in that rain, deluge and darkness. I later heard that tracks in Parel station were submerged ; and, the train services  were stranded.  

The Durwan (security guard) of the building came up to me and said that Dastur Sahib was calling me in. I did not know any Dastur. I hesitated a while ; but followed the guard as he kept insisting. Dastur Sahib turned out to be a Parsi gentleman of middle age; a perfect stranger. He handed me a towel, inquired about me; and, instructed his cook to serve me only vegetarian food. He asked me to stay for the night. I gratefully accepted all that he offered.

I often think of Mr. Dastur and wonder whether I would have trusted a stranger; invited him home, at the dark hour of the night; and, offered  food and shelter, as he did.

I heard of similar stories of help and generosity, during the recent deluge in Bombay. Some women formed groups in order to serve food to the stranded commuters. Only a city (however messy be it) with a large heart is capable of such acts.

***

Once, while traveling from New Delhi to Bombay by train I lost my brief case (square, hard and black box called, at that time, as James Bond box) at Bombay Central. I do not know how I lost it. Whoever took it, must have been a very smooth operator. After I realized the box was gone, I wandered for a while on the railway platform aimlessly, bemused and sheepish; and , finally gave it up as lost. There was some money in the box; but more importantly, it contained some office papers and other documents of value related to  discussions I had with the officials in  the Ministries at New Delhi .

On way to my apartment in Prabhadevi, I talked to my self “Ok. Old boy, tomorrow is your last day at the office. Start looking for another job. Take heart and have your last good sleep”. After reaching the apartment, I did exactly that; I ate well and slept well, convinced I was beyond help.

Next day I set out to office in a suicidal mood. On the way near the main gate, facing Siddhi_Vinayaka, the Durwan – Waghmare, greeted me and as he usually does, started some small talk. Then I mentioned to him about my bag and how it was lost etc. He asked me what I proposed to do now. I said, I cannot think of doing anything and if the office asks me to quit I will do just that and go home; period.

He seemed pensive and thoughtful for while; and said ‘ you could go to the office late today; but, now come with me right now’. He took me by my arm and led me to a taxi. We reached a small suburban railway station on the outskirts of Bombay along the Harbor line.

The station looked almost deserted at that time. He hailed someone and asked for Karim Lala. After a few minutes, Mr. Karim Lala materialized, followed by a couple of his sidekicks. My friend , Waghmare explained the details of the case and the predicament of his Sahib.

The result of the esteemed conversation was that after a while, I was staring , in disbelief,   at my sad looking black box which I had given up as lost and grieved that I would never again see in my life.

I was politely instructed that I should not expect to find any money in the box ; and should be thankful for getting back the box with all papers intact. I checked the box; the papers were all there. We both thanked Mr. Lala profusely which he accepted royally.

On the way back, I offered some substantial money to Waghmare , as reward and as a sign of my gratitude. He said all payments are to be made to his Boss;  and,  he would not dare risk displeasing the Boss, a hard task master. We drove back to Prabhadevi and reached our apartment. 

Waghmare ,  took me to his Boss who resided just opposite to the main entrance  to our apartment building , across the street . Then, Waghmare instructed me to drop the money , I intended to give him, in to the Hundi of Sri Siddhivinayaka.  We both profusely thanked his Boss Lord Siddhivinayaka, in reverence and humility. That was how Waghmare and his Boss saved me and  my job.

                                                    siddhivinayaka

The claim that love pervades this world may not sound real; not because it isn’t true but because we haven’t learned to pay much attention to countless moments of love, kindness, and care that surround us each day

 

lotus offering

 

      There are two ways to live your life.
      One is as though nothing is a miracle.
      The other is to live as though
      Everything is a miracle.

      -Albert Einstein
 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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Good friends are like stars…

 

For those who have forgotten that they have had this before

 He was tired and aching and on his way home from a long day at work, so he almost didn’t see the old lady stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day he could see she needed help.  Therefore, he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out.  His old Pontiac was still sputtering as he approached her.   

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He did not look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was chill. It was that chill which only fears can put in you.

He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.”

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid.
 
Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.
 
He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, “Pass it on.”
 
He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan ..

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: “This isn’t a tip, it’s a gift.  You don’t owe me anything. Somebody once helped me out and if you feel you want to pay me back, don’t let this chain of love end with you, pass it on.”
 
Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.
 
Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it to closing time.  

That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it?  With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard….

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a gentle kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”

There is an old saying “What goes around comes around.” 

Good friends are like stars…You do not always see them, but you know they are always there.

Today I sent you this story and I am asking you to pass it on; not necessarily the same story. It could be your story or any story that conveys the message. Let this light keep shining. 

Please read

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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