Monday, October 12, 2009

The Message On The Auto !

All my life, I have heard people talk about the wickedness of the world we live in today.

This is no one
Pray that God keeps you...
Today's world has no conscience

Parents vs children, siblings at war, friends betrayed for a song, greed, theft, anger, violence...all the signs of a world gone wrong. Not to mention the incidents of catastrophe, natural & man-made, that strike at the foundations of our society at regular intervals.

Yet, there are moments in life, when the strength & generosity of the human spirit overwhelms me.
And, fills me with hope.

Like this morning.
I was in desperate need of fruit, and other such mundane essentials of survival that one only finds in a large supermarket. I confess, I love supermarkets and meandering about a large, well stocked supe is one of my favourite Sunday past-times.

As I stood on the lonely road, scanning the horizon for an obliging auto rickshaw, I was rather surprised to see a vehicle dressed in white heading my way.

It was a rickshaw, seemingly draped in a white dhoti!
Well, a white dhoti with red and blue words and squiggles all over it.
Pretty much like one of those privileged permed and coiffed pets on TV, which is forced into designer clothes by its doting owner.

As I squinted disbelievingly, the auto in white cruised to a slow stop next to me.

And, a young cheerful face popped out of the side, oblivious to my expression of shock and curiosity.

I was not entirely sure if I wanted to ride into town in a shrouded rickshaw, covered in squiggles that I did not understand.
What if it was propaganda of sorts?

And yet, I did not seem to have very many choices by way of transport....

Which is why when he enquired nonchalantly, I could only stammer out my destination..distractedly.

His accepting nod suddenly resolved the conflict raging within.
I had to know before I hopped on.
And so, hesitantly, in pidgin Kannada, I asked him what the message on his auto was.

" Oh, I am collecting funds for the flood victimsin Karnataka & Andra Pradesh. I do not like to ask people for money, which is why I have a banner on my auto and a collection box inside. Anyone who wants to contribute is welcome to do so."

This, he said, in a matter of fact tone which asked neither for applause nor appreciation.
It was merely an answer to a question.
And one, which piqued my curiosity.

As we sped along, I could not resist asking Ramakrishna as to how he planned to ensure that his money reached the intended recipients.

" Madam, I hand this over to the TV 9 office where they are collecting funds for relief activities. It is explained on the banner so people will know I am not a cheat."

And did people contribute? I asked
" Yes they do...In tens and twenties. I collect about 600-700 Rs. each day "

The numbers he cited jolted me.
And, my skepticism about the generosity of the society we lived in.
Are people more giving that I had imagined them to be?
Are they capable of more compassion and caring?

As I mulled over these questions, my eyes fixed unseeingly on the crude collection jar in front of me, Ramakrishna added
" Actually madam, the fares I have received this past week have also gone into that jar. I must set an example, no? So I ask the passengers to put the fares into the jar and a lot of them add a few rupees extra."

The man flummoxed me.
Why would he deprive himself of a week's earnings for people he did not know?
Had never met and probably never would in his whole life.

Maybe he was a mind reader.
Or perhaps, it was the incredulous expression on my face that prompted him to explain his motives.

" I feel bad when I see the plight of the people in these flooded villages. Imagine that, madam. Imagine loosing every single thing you posses and not have anyone to turn to because everyone you know is in the same desperate situation? And still they refuse to give up. When I see the hope on their faces, I feel I should help them..even if it is a small effort, at least I know I have done something"

His words struck a chord deep within me.
I could not, for the life of me, imagine being in such a plight.
Or, having the courage to cope with a catastrophe of this magnitude.

I don't know how many of us can.

Every single day, the world wakes up to news of such disasters.
Yet, many of us go about our daily lives without a second thought about the people afflicted by these disasters.

We tell ourselves that there isn't much that we can do.
Little realising that every little effort counts.
And that we can make a difference.

We do not need to make extravagant gestures.
Nor, do we need to deprive ourselves vastly.

Sometimes, a little goes a long way.
And this, I learnt from a humble auto driver today.

As I alighted at my destination, I gingerly pushed the fare into the box and then, some more.
Ramakrishna's delighted thank-yous sent waves of shame rippling through my being.

Here was a man who was donating a whole week's earnings, incurring costs to go about his daily work and uninhibitedly urging the rest of us to do our bit for people in need.
And, the grandness of his gesture did not prevent him from appreciating me for having donated just the cost of a decent meal.

What could I tell him?......Other than Salut.


Tall Guy said...

That's a good gesture on his part.

Everyone of us can make a difference in a small way but seldom do we realize that.

Gingerbread & Me said...

I know.....sometimes, we get too caught up with life inside our bubbles, don't we?

Arch said...

wow! that was humbling.

Ganges said...

that was lovely! isn't it amazing that sometimes in the least expected of moments, out pops at us a gem of a person or thought?