Sometimes, a good story inspires you to write your own. It’s a vicious circle of stories all around us- stories that make strangers your best friends and sometimes compel you to question your own existence. Smart phone, tablet, phablet, iPad, Kindle etc- so many innovations, so much convenience. However, listening to stories from fellow passengers in a second class train compartment has been the best memory I have of storytelling. To know a city, you don’t need to know its streets and landmarks, just know its people and that would be all. Do you judge the city by how the houses are arranged or how the people treated you? Strangers play a major role in our life- they are the fillers of our world. They are the society which we have segregated on the basis of acquaintance and non acquaintance. Yet strangers are the people we fear the most. Strange is it?
In April 2013, people discussed, criticized and shared the incidence of apathy shown by the public in case of a road accident in Jaipur where a man lost his wife and daughter. He cried for help but no one came forward. Such is our fear of strangers. Had we met him one day before in train or bus where we would have exchanged some words of acknowledgement, we might have saved him. This wall though as flimsy as a paper, is 100% opaque. We can’t see the other person’s intentions but we do not try to explain ours too.
In a country where crime against children is rampant, parents discourage their children to open up to strangers. Perhaps this is very important step to ensure your kid is not being abused but in some small corner of mind, a stranger becomes as scary as a monster or ghost. We grow up carrying this suspicion and fear and never give ourselves a chance to come out of the shell of ‘me and my’. How many times do we stop on request by a stranger to click a photo, help in repairing a vehicle, or smile at a person passing by?
I don’t know whether I have done insane things or not, but I never paid any heed to instructions like do not eat food provided by strangers, don’t accompany old people, disabled people and young children to their home, do not share your secrets with strangers, never give money to strangers who ask for money because they lost their wallet. Being a girl in a country like India, it is perhaps in my best interest that I should be wary of strangers but if I am allowed to share a secret today, I would like to tell you how helping strangers and getting helped by strangers have helped me become a better person.
1. Being appreciated by a stranger: Once I helped an old man reach his home. He was very grateful and introduced me to his wife. The old couple offered me tea and talked about their experiences and a lot of other things. We get appreciated by our family, friends, colleagues and boss when we perform our duty but being appreciated by a stranger for going out of the way to help someone is paradise.
2. Feeling good about yourself: It was a lovely spring afternoon. I just got down from an auto when a bunch of slum kids came running towards me and asked for chocolates. I took them to the nearest store and got them their favorite chocolates. We became friends and not only they made me feel good about myself, they also helped me fight with my loneliness.
3. Differentiating between good and bad intentions: You can’t learn swimming by staying away from water. I had many experiences of people approaching me for help stating that they have lost their wallet. I have always tried to help these people and surprisingly, some people have returned the money they were given while many never turned back but these incidents have definitely taught me lessons in identifying wrong intentions.
4. You would not be judged by them: When I had my first heartbreak, I poured my heart out in front of the in charge of the ladies waiting room at a railway station. Though she did not know me, her pearls of wisdom soothed my bereaving heart and gave me strength. And the best thing was that I did not need to worry about how I came across her as a person.
So, you see how better it is to talk to a stranger than you think. Of course I understand the risk of being conned or fooled but I think it is better to be proved stupid now than later regretting not helping a needy. Remember, you cannot always carry your loved ones along. Someday, they might be in need when you are not there. And it may sound foolish but I believe that your good karma always returns to you. And if quotes from eminent personalities and characters help, here is a very good quote I found on Goodreads:
“If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.”