I sneeze into my handkerchief for the hundredth time since morning. It’s flu season in Ireland and I too have caught the wretched bug. It’s Saturday and even though hubbyji is doing a fantastic job of taking care of me, being ill makes me downright nasty.
“Here you go, honeyyyyy…..” he hurries into the room with a hand towel over his shoulder and both his hands occupied, “..Here’s your hot water bottle. Is it the right temperature?”
“…here’s that book you asked me to get…It’s this one, isn’t it?”
“…and soup will be ready in fifteen minutes!”
He stands with both his hands on his waist and looks down at me, lying on the bed looking like a corpse.
“So..umm…How are you feeling?” he asks.
I pause in the middle of blowing my nose on the handkerchief (which is getting damper and damper with every passing minute) and narrowing my eyes, look up to give him a deadly glare.
“OH I AM GRREAADDD!” I say, sarcastically, “HAVIG SO BUCH FUDDD! LEDSS GO OUT FOR LUCHHH….I WID CALL AAD MAKE REZZEVASION. DABLE FOR DOO- HUBBYJI AAD A ZOBBIEE FROM WALKIG DEAD!!!!!! ACCHOOO!!”
“He He!” Hubbyji grins, “I asked for that one! You will be fine in two-three days. I know it sucks!”
“Havig a cold izz da worsd,” I state, sniffing, “ I can’d zleep because I can’d breathe when I lie down. Deze sneezes on dop of dad. Ugh! “
“I know!” he says, patting me on the head sympathetically, “I will give you another pill after your meal and maybe that will give you some relief for a couple of hours.
“Daankoo!” I say, plopping my head back on the propped up pillows and closing my eyes.
I spend the following week resting and 4-5 days later, I am feeling pretty much recovered. I am also absolutely bored out of my mind from being cooped up in the house.
“I’ll make a run to the supermarket today” I inform hubbyji, handing him his lunchbox as he gets ready to leave for work, early in the morning.
“Are you sure?” he asks,”You have just got better. I don’t think you should exert.”
“It’s going to be warmer today. I checked the weather,” I say, “..besides, I’ll take the bus. I won’t walk. I am sick of being inside the house for so long”
“All right, but be careful.” he says waving, and sets off.
It’s almost noon as I step into one of my favorite places in the world. Once every week, I wander into this amazing supermarket to stock up my kitchen supplies. For me, there is simply no therapy like it. Wheeling a trolley through the winding aisles of my local Supervalu, I lose a happy hour, imagining the meals I could make this week with the shiny ingredients in the Ethnic cooking aisle, shiver standing in the refrigerated section of cheeses and judge the contents of my fellow shoppers’ trolleys while waiting in a queue for the billing. I love it all! Nothing soothes my impatient mind as much as a trip to the supermarket.
Humming to myself, I head for the fruits & vegetables section first. I still have a touch of cold left and it makes me sniff a little, from time to time. I grab a bunch of vine tomatoes and gently begin to pluck them off the vine before throwing them into the plastic bag, one at a time. As I put them on the weighing scale, I let out a little sniff. From my peripheral vision, I sense a presence near me and I glance to my left to see an elderly gentleman peering at me. I smile at him which he returns and I drag my trolley to the next row. I spot a fresh batch of coconuts and decide to take one to make south-indian style chutney for the coming weekend. Standing right in front of the pile, I grab one and holding it near my ear, give it a little shake.
“Nope!” I think to myself.
I lift another one and repeat the process.
I shake the third one and finally, hear the sound I was waiting for. *Splish Splosh*
“Aaa haaaa!” I say, smiling from ear to ear. This one has water inside it. Checkmark- freshness.
As I bag the coconut, I look up and am instantly startled by the head facing me from behind the pile of coconuts, staring at me. It’s the same elderly gentleman, whom I had smiled at some time back. He is frowning a little. What exactly is the matter with him?
Now, one can deny it all they want, but the truth is, when you are in a country which is not your own, the first thing your mind races towards in an uncomfortable situation is the thought of racism. Am I doing something wrong or they just dislike me because of who I am? In the past 4 years, there have been next to no instances of racism that we have faced but I confess that it’s the one thing you are always wary of. Especially, in today’s time where there are talks of building giant walls to keep immigrant away doing rounds, I for one, seem to think on these lines, more often than I’d like.
“Err…!” I say, “Can I help you, Sir? Anything the matter?”
“What were you listening for, in those coconuts just now?” he asks, curiously.
“Umm..just to check for the sound of water inside it. I somehow think that’s the sign of freshness.” I say, hesitatingly. Is he a staff member disguised as us commoners…er, customers, like the kings in the ancient times used to do, to keep a check on their empire?
He blinks twice and then grins so widely, that the instant change in expression scares me a bit.
“..but THAT’S CLEVER!” he says, “All these years and I never gave it a thought.”
“Your wife must know of this trick.” immensely relieved, I smile at him.
“Nahh!” I bet she doesn’t either.” he says, cheerfully “..and I saw you take the vines off the tomatoes earlier. To shed off the excess weight, isn’ t it? That’s clever too! You from India?”
“Yeah!” I say.
“So it’s true what them stereotypes say about an Indian brain, eh? You guys are the sharp ones. Gave us ‘zero’ and everything!” He says, pleasantly making conversation.
“Well, my husband wouldn’t agree with you for the current brain you are talking about.” I grin.
“Ha Ha Ha!” he lets out a booming laughter. “I am sure he secretly will. I see that you are sniffing. Flu got you too, eh?”
“Oh yes!” I say, “Actually, this is the first time I have stepped out of the house since. I was on bed whole of the last week. It’s almost gone now.”
“Oh, you poor thing!” he says, sympathetically “My grand-daughter got it last week and came to stay with us for a while. Cold was bothering her very much too you know, but then the pharmacy gave her some sort of a wonder pill and she was back to college after only 3-4 days. Hang on, I will call her and ask the name of the medicine.”
Before I could politely refuse, he was dialing and I waited as he spoke to his grand-daughter over the phone. He spelt out the name of the medicine for me and I noted it down in my mobile. After hanging up, he chatted with me for five more minutes, giving me tips to get better soon. As we bid farewell afterwards, my heart warmed at the thoughtful gesture this wonderful stranger had done for me. All day long, I smiled at the memory of him giving me grandfatherly advice for my health. He did not need to do any of it. He did it out of sheer goodness of his heart. In these catastrophic times, goodness is the reason that this world is still holding its own, don’t you think?
Kindness is such an interesting emotion- invisible to the eye, soothing to the heart. People often under estimate the impact of a simple act of kindness. It is truly one of the most meaningful, fulfilling and world changing life-skills. Empathy is a powerful human emotion that allows us to feel for one another and connect to each other on deeper and stronger levels. When we have empathy for another individual, our feelings become connected. There is a genuine happiness we feel upon making others happy. If it is so easy to bring a smile to someone’s face why does it happen so infrequently? If human beings are capable of tremendous kindness, why don’t more people act with tremendous kindness more often?
When we are little, we bestow kindness without reserve and accept it without question. The hugs, the thank-yous, the pleases. We’re bent in our intent to do good. We aren’t self-conscious about it, and are proud of it. We haven’t learned to be afraid of being kind yet.
As we grow up, we begin to separate one thing from another, label it all, and come to identify with a sense of “me,” in contrast to other people around us. This is how self-interest, aggression and defensiveness develop. As we learn about the difference between ourselves and the world, we want to protect ourselves, to fight for our recognition or existence. The natural inclination is there, but as we get older, we start to trim those impulses.
Let us also remember the times we live in. In a competitive society, it’s hard to be kind to others when kindness is sometimes mistaken for weakness, and the conventional wisdom of the day is that dogs eat dogs. We grow tough out of self-protection. More often than not, kind people are taken advantage of. We get hurt. So, it is definitely not wrong to be wary of it, but let’s try not to lose faith in it.
This world is still intact because there is goodness to every evil. I can never forget the time when hubbyji and I were separated during the initial days in the UK. He managed to get on the train with our luggage and I was left behind on the station with no money and no phone. Memory of every person who reached out to me and offered to help me on seeing my worried face, will remain in my mind till I die. That instance made me believe that there are still people in this world who help others without expecting anything in return. It is easy to get caught up in your own life and feel like you don’t have time to help yourself, let alone others, but it is imperative that we make time to shed kindness around our world.
Let me be clear- I am, by no standard, a saint! I argue, I compete, I fight, I ignore and I feel hurt too. There’s a long way to go before I adapt the analogy of showing the other cheek in my life. That is not the kind of thing I am talking about here.
Someone holding the door open for an elderly person, someone saying hello when they pass by a stranger, sending a ‘thank-you’ note, helping an old person cross the street or simply smiling to another person without any reason- No strings. Everyone loves a random act of kindness. These are small gestures that can change a bad day into a great day. When you carry-out a single act of kindness there are three people who are directly impacted: the person who is performing the act, the one that receives it, and last but most important, anyone who witnesses the kind act. This is why kindness is contagious.
Many argue that nature of these acts of kindness is as selfish as it is selfless because you benefit as much as the other person. They claim that people only indulge in kindness to make themselves feel good. I say it differently- doing good deeds or acts which benefit others simply make you feel pleasant and very, very positive. I mean, what’s the downside here? Someone is being helped and you are feeling good. Win-win, isn’t it? Kindness is kindness. Nothing else matters. It does not matter either if the kindness you do today is big or small.
Speaking of big kindness- charity is the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need. Now here’s something that I find very amusing. A few times, I have come across people who have a very fixed, ‘tailored’ version of charity..
“We donate but only in a temple.”
“Giving money to poor? Hah! As it is we pay so much of taxes. It’s the government’s problem. Not ours!”
“We volunteer, but only in a Gurudwara.”
“You donate for animal-aid? You aren’t even a vegetarian!” *snigger snigger*
Now this last point about the animals. This is something I have been wanting to speak on for a long time.
Firstly, hubbyji and I are non-vegetarians. Love it! No excuses. Hatsoff to people who have managed to give up non-veg for their love of animals. One day, we hope to do the same. We have tried many times but have failed miserably. We were both born in the omnivore families and our taste buds have not yet allowed to make this sacrifice. So, that’s out there.
Now, here’s the funny thing- we are also animal lovers. Can’t do anything to change it. We can’t just switch it off. God gave us that sentiment and it’s a part of who we are. Back in India, we were one of those annoying couples that you find in your neighborhood, who buy food for the stray dogs and feed them everyday. In Pune, there were a lot of dogs in our locality and we loved to buy biscuits for them. They’d wait for us everyday with their wagging tails and we named them all. We’d play with them for hours. When we were told off by the colony members saying that the “dogs are becoming a nuisance”, we would just wait till after midnight to sneak up and meet our furry friends. If we bought chicken for ourselves, we used to buy the same amount for them as well. I would boil the chicken and prepare for them the same meal that I used to make for our beloved golden retriever Shine. Our friends and family called us mad for buying and cooking chicken for stray dogs but we could afford it and we wanted to. The dogs used to go mad the day they got chicken and rice for their dinner. We miss this immensely ever since we moved abroad four years ago and now we have to be content with donating monitory amount to the NGOs which work towards animal welfare. Sending out money is A LOT LESS satisfying than feeding and caring for the dogs yourselves but atleast, it’s not nothing. We contribute whatever we can to help the sick or abused animals, every now or then.
Now, here’s the thing that gets my goat. In the past years, I have had numerous sarcastic comments/retorts/taunts thrown at me about being a hypocrite. Each time it’s the same hurtful, sarcastic statement- “….BUT YOU ARE NOT A VEGETARIAN!”
So answer me this, next time when a hungry little pup comes to me whining out of hunger, do I say to him?- “Sorry bud! I would love to fill your hungry stomach and I can easily buy you food. I have money but…….I am a non-vegetarian. I don’t have the authority to help animals. Sorry! See yaa!”
Does this make sense????
What’s with these guidelines? Who wrote them? Again– I know that the right thing for us to do, as animal lovers, is for us to give up meat but meanwhile, we would still like to indulge in other acts of kindness without being attacked, thank you very much!…and attacked in most cases, by those, who have never even touched a stray animal or donated for them but are only sitting on a high chair because of being conveniently born in a traditional vegetarian household (vegetarianism is the most common religious practice in India.). This makes my blood boil. See, I told you I am not a saint!
Judging is our default human condition. It becomes the conditioned norm and we are not even aware of it. Our ego wants to only see what is wrong with the scenario that is put in front of us. That ‘glass half empty’ kind of a thing. Moving from judgment to kindness is one of the most difficult things to do but THAT’S THE GREATEST ACT OF KINDNESS THAT YOU CAN DO! Start by being more kind and accepting of others. Do not try to fit everything in a frame of one set way of thinking. Break it and push the boundaries of your acceptance. Think out of the box and step out of it too!
Again, a kind deed is a kind deed. Be it at your choice of place- a temple,a gurudwara, a church, a mosque or on the streets instead. The impact will be the same. You will help the person who needs it and that is what matters in the end, period. Love that depends on something else or somebody else is a poor love. Love that you create out of your own being, is real. Our lives become beautiful because we put our heart into our actions. That can’t come out of manipulation!
As for not giving anything to poor or needy because paying taxes is enough…………It’s not. It never is.
Light the world with a little kindness everyday. Don’t rationalize it and don’t put too much thought into it. Be kind and carry on!
The alarm goes off early in the morning and I stretch, while rubbing my eyes into the focus. I smile as I remember what day it is. It’s our seventh marriage anniversary!!!
“It’s going to be a good day!” I think to myself, grinning with my eyes closed and putting my hands behind my head.
Not because of what occasion it is. Anniversary, togetherness, love..blah..blah..blah, all that is fine, but the reason why it is going to be a good day is because today’s the day I get to relax completely. A couple of days ago, hubbyji asked me what I wanted for our anniversary and I asked him to give me a day off from cooking. He naively agreed to be the one who will make tea and cook food throughout the day till the evening, when I will make him a special anniversary dinner. So he stays at home today and pamper me while I get to laze around the whole day, enjoying the Sherlock marathon.
“Aaaaaaaaaah!” I say to myself, “I will start the day off by a cup of tea. A breakfast to follow that….hubbyji makes a good omlette…….and then, maybe a nice bubble bath…”
“HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HONEYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”
Hubbyji breaks into my reverie and his sudden shout makes me yelp! I open my eyes to see him standing by the bed holding a gigantic bouquet of roses and a gift-wrapped box in his arms. He’s smiling so widely, I am worried that he will hurt his mouth, seeing that he does this so rarely.
I take in the sight before me and promptly burst into tears.
“What’s the matter?” he asks, shocked.
“I got you nothing!” I wailed, “We said no gifts, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, we did,” hubbyji says, “but I couldn’t resist getting you these. I wrote on a card and everything, see-‘ I am so happy to have you in my life, my very very nutty wife’. Rhyme and all.”
“I feel awful!” I say.
“Aweee!” he says, sitting besides me, “I don’t want that. You want to give me something so that it makes you feel better?”
“Yeah!” I say, eagerly.
“So that thing you said about me cooking etc today?” he says, innocently “You can take that back and make me my favorite things all day…. That will make me so happy…”
I stop weeping and look at him with an eyebrow raised. He stares back grinning and runs out of the room when I start hitting him with a pillow.
“This was your plan all along!!!!” I say, running after him with a pillow in my hand.
“I have put all the things on the kitchen counter that you would need to make for breakfast,” he says, blocking the blows “I am thinking scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns…you know, the works. Only to make you feel better honey…seeing that I went to so much trouble and you didn’t get me anything at all.”
“Oh, for me, is it? You. Are.” I say, with gritted teeth and punctuating each word with a whack from a pillow, “So. KINDDDD!!!!”