It was a 7.30pm Borivali fast train that I was attempting to catch that day. Too crowded, people were jostling for space and the sticky humid Mumbai weather made everyone angry and mean. I am never rude but that's not good enough. People still glare and stamp your feet. There's no time for niceties. Like rats gnawing at each other, trying to survive.
While running towards the Ladies coach I bumped into a man on the platform. In such a frenzied melee, it was expected that the person would shout at me for delaying him from moving towards the general compartment. I had ignored looking at him for I didn’t intend to apologize.
Turning my back towards him, I yanked myself up on the ladies compartment. I could hear him say in the kindest voice possible "I am sorry for bumping into you". I snapped my head back and turned to look.
Who? Who had shown me such kindness, when I had erred .
It was a blind man. To my horror, I had disoriented him. I had bumped into him with such force that he had turned 180 degrees and was trying hard to get back to a straight line.
I got down from my train instinctively. I tried to reach out to him and guide him, push him gently towards his cabin which lay ahead. Other passers-by were quicker, they guided him but we both missed our train.
I felt too embarrassed to tell him I was sorry to have thrown him off his track. And suddenly I had this overwhelming need to cry, because in all my years of living alone, away from family, no one had ever been kind to me. No, really.
And that feeling was isolating.
How easily he forgave me. How easily he apologized.
I say easy because forgiving is so difficult. And apologizing is equated with groveling and losing face.
I made him miss his train, his equilibrium, his sense of direction. And there he was, the large hearted man who did not have any false ego, who apologized for what was not even his fault. He just assumed he had waylaid me, when it was actually the other way round.
Is that a life lesson we can learn? To pretend to be blind to the flaw of the other person and apologize instead. He won my heart. So can we.
What an irony, for people with sight have always been so transactional. Even I am like that, my sense of kindness is restricted to those from whom I feel I have something to gain. Subconsciously, my mind does a quick math on who I can profit from and whom I consider my own. Beyond them, my kindness does not stretch. It is easy to appear kind to a friend with more means, a charismatic peer, a potential boyfriend or a future in-law because we are motivated by our selfish need to gain something out of them. That is not kindness, that is selfishness compelling us to act polite.
While a man without sight turned out to be a far better human being. It felt so good to be treated kindly by him that I had this insane desire to cry.
Many of us are a generation that grew up alone, away from our family, in pursuit of a better education or a lofty career goal. On top of that, we all have high pressure jobs or our own high pressure ambitions which keep us dissatisfied. Then, there is the modern relationship fraught with breakups, divorces & strains in the love life due to our own complicated thinking, ego clashes, misunderstanding etc. We are already battling so many difficult mini-wars plus our parents are not even in the same city to console us when we fail and boy, do we fail miserably at many of our tasks.
In such a war zone like situation which we live in, the sympathetic tone of a random stranger can act like such a soothing balm. We are all such kindness deprived souls because the world has become such a harsh place to live in. What does it take, that one random act of kindness? Nothing. But in return, the sense of comfort we provide a person can help him deal with a rough day better. That tired warrior, at the end of the day would bless us. And this I learnt from the unblind amongst us blind beings. He compelled me to open my eyes to the possibility of stepping out of my self- absorbed world and learning to live life differently.