A recent survey shows that the Japanese top the list when it comes to being socially mindful and we Indians are third last on the list.
That’s quite a knock for those of us who believe that we are just as concerned as any other nationality and any other human being about how our actions will affect others. While the authors of the study acknowledge that more research is required, we can hope that somehow all of us, everywhere in the world, can go about our daily life mindfully, practicing little acts of kindness towards others, with concern for society at large in all that we do; and I go down memory lane to our own experiences that demonstrated the random kindness of strangers in different parts of our country.
As preteen girls when Father was posted to the national capital, my sister and I often had to find our way around independently in the enormous city. We had many nasty encounters that taught us how to negotiate the streets safely — but we also met many kind strangers who reinforced our belief in our fellowmen.
One dark rainy night when Big Brother was driving us home from a birthday party where we had lingered too long, the car stalled at a traffic light and we soon had a line of impatient cars honking behind us. We girls jumped out to push the car aside but even together we couldn’t manage it. Then, suddenly, out of the darkness, a huge (to us) bearded and turbaned figure loomed up — and we froze in fear. Without a word, he leant against the car and with one mighty shove sent it rolling to a sputtering start. I don’t think we called out our thanks before darting away because we were afraid that Big Brother would leave us behind on the road, embarrassed as he was by the incident!
Sometime later, when the whole family was driving to Mussoorie via Roorkee and Dehradun, our car packed up in the middle of nowhere and the five of us stood around helplessly, unable to think of a solution. A lone driver in a passing car, totally unintimidated by our numbers, stopped to have a look at what was wrong — and when he figured it out, he had no hesitation in piling us into his vehicle, driving us to Roorkee, sending someone to retrieve our car, getting it repaired, all the while playing host to us in his home! None of us could ever repay his kindness; but none of us ever forgot it!
Later, as an adult on a second-hand two-wheeler, I often got stranded on the roads on my way to or from work — but always, there was some good Samaritan to help me. Some of them stayed in my life for years, becoming friends on whom I could rely for help — and for fun times too!
A stranger’s hand in support was commonplace during our decades in military stations. There was always someone who would leave their home for us to use when we were just posted in — storing all their belongings in one room for the time they were away on annual leave and leaving the rest of the furnished house open to us. It isn’t easy to move a houseful of personal belongings into one room and then take them out again and sort them out on one’s return, but they did it. Sometimes, we never met the people who made that sacrifice for us and we couldn’t repay them in any way, but we learnt to pay it forward and do the same for others in similar situations.
That’s what it is all about, isn’t it?
Little kindnesses that are extended by a few — and then multiply as we take them forward.
— Cheryl Rao is a writer based in India