Posts Tagged With: kindness in strange quarters

Kindness in Strange Quarters – Encounter with an Auto Walla!

I should say it upfront! I think this post is fairly long.. but I do hope you will have the time to read it through 🙂 I didn’t want to cut anything from the post after I re-read it to shorten it a little 😮

Long time back when I had attended a workshop on storytelling as a means of communication in development, I was amazed to see how most participants when asked to choose and tell a real story (with a message in the end), picked up a story where an act of kindness from a stranger had led them to question their distrust on strangers.

Sometime ago when I went to Gandhi Ashram, I met these young enthusiasts who have been helping people with no expectation of return and living lives on the principles of pay-it-forward or the gift economy. It brought forth so many random acts of kindness… kindness to strangers… an effort to renew our trust on each other, a belief that not everybody out there is going to cheat us.

As kids we used to trust people so easily. Just yesterday I was telling my friends how me and my sister used to walk back home for 2 kms (after a 14 kms bus ride) from school in scorching heat and we would wave at strangers, we would stop at anyone’s home and ask for water or just shade, we used to take lift from strangers without thinking twice. But today every mother will warn her children to be careful of strangers, not to talk to them, not to take anything to eat/drink from them. And rightly so, I’m not saying they are wrong. This caution is off course stemmed from the various child abuse/ abduction stories that get highlighted in media and are told over and over again. One story is repeatedly used to magnify our fears manifolds.

I think I’m digressing too far… What I wanted to say was we need to share more and more ‘good’ stories… We need to remind ourselves that the world is after all not such a bad place, that we don’t need to keep looking for monsters under our bed! The unknown is not always dangerous… Off course caution is necessary but distrust is not.

I shared one such story of how I was moved by kindness from Indian railway catering staff when I boarded the wrong train at Pune station. Yesterday a friend of mine, Prarthana, shared her own experience of kindness from strangers on email and I thought it needs to be told further on. We all take it for granted that the auto-wallas are out to cheat us.. But this one experience shows that’s not the case always! Below is her encounter with an auto-walla in Bangalore:

Today when I left from Adugodi at 7.15 pm (a difficult time to get auto:)) here comes an auto whom I ask “Old Airport Road starting Sir” and I get a reply after a pause of many seconds… “Madam naanu nimge Bidtini adre Madam bejar padako bedi naanu illi swalpa munde hogi ondu parcel collect mada beku, bekandre U turn tagondu illindane meter start madtini”; meaning “Madam I would drop you but if you don’t mind I need to collect a parcel a little further on this road, I would start meter once we take U turn and cross this place”. I readily agreed.

He collected his parcel and appreciated the fact that I didn’t say No and I wasn’t rude like many other customers he would get 🙂 On our way we shared our stories in short. I got introduced to Mr. Murali, who owns this auto, owns a small site and a small house has supported many of his brother and is loking forward for good education for his 2 boys studying in 5th and 7th Grade, does good to his best in life and very important he doesn’t charge a single extra penny from his customer except when he has to go in outskirts where he would not get any customer in return, he stressed saying his meter fare too is accurate:)…

When I reached my destination I realised that I had just missed my bus…. He slowed down and asked me “Madam how much is the meter reading?” I said “Rs 57 Sir”. It was his reply that took me by surprise… “Madam I am switching the meter off here, I am anyway going further to wish a good friend of mine for his Birthday and I would anyway go with my auto empty. So I will drop you to bus stop close by for no extra charge” and started moving further. I had no words….I was feeling so privileged and happy to see his kindness. He dropped me at the bus stop, I asked him how much to pay, he saw chart and new rate applied to Rs 57 was some Rs 75. He said I would want to stick to my commitment Maam, so pay me Rs 75:) I was very much moved by his act of helping and kindness and paid him Rs 80 and 2 Alpenliebe chocolates I had in my bag and lots of heartfelt thanks to show my gratitude and in turn I also got a lot of thanks and his contact no.:) that I didn’t want to miss saving in my phone book!!!

Not all Auto drivers are bad; there are many good people too!!! We crib about few asking more money but please appreciate good ones 🙂

Prarthana is an avid volunteer with a number of NGOs in Bangalore. She is also running the TCS world 10K marathon to raise funds for the NGOs she supports. Check out her story here:

 Have you ever been humbled by kindness from a stranger? I would love to hear your experience!

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Categories: around us | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

My very own ‘Chalo Dilli’ experience

For those who have seen the movie, this is the story of my very own “Chalo Dilli” experience. For those who haven’t, this is the story of how it took me 11 hours to reach from Pune to Lonavla (a distance of ~60kms).

Last Sunday I was to travel from Pune to Lonavala by the 6am Sinhagad express. Don’t ask me how but at 6:05 am I found myself on the Pune-Secunderabad Shatabdi express. Not only does it go in opposite direction, it has very limited stops. The next stoppage was only at Sholapur 3 hours later. Within the first 10 minutes, all passengers in the two cabins and all of railway staff (except the TT) knew my misfortune and everyone were forthcoming with questions and free advice. I also tried pulling the chain but the train would just not stop. One passenger suggested I should request the driver directly to stop the train momentarily on an intermediate station. Since there was nothing left to do, I thought why not give that a try. So I started towards the driver’s cabin. Before the driver’s cabin was the generator cabin where I was told that the driver’s cabin is inaccessible and that I could not go beyond that room. I resigned to my fate. Thought it’s no use fighting so let’s just go and sit in the cabin and pay the fine and figure out at Sholapur.

The AC attendant, Anupam bhaiya, then asked me to sit on the attendant’s berth, I didn’t question. The AC engineer came later and told me that the TT has done his round and has gone back. I should just stay here and not go inside the cabin else the TT will fine. I made myself comfortable, removed my shoes, sat cross-legged, opened a book and started reading. Anupam bhaiya got me the day’s newspaper and morning chai. At regular intervals someone or the other would come and strike a conversation. Later on Anupam bhaiya gave me proper Shatabdi breakfast tray. About 30 mins before Sholapur, the train stopped in the middle of nowhere. On the opposite track another train (Bangalore-Delhi express) stopped at the same time. Anupam bhaiya and the AC engineer quickly helped me switch the train and told me go up till Daund in the train and switch from there.

The coach I boarded was ladies general. While there was no seat, it wasn’t very crowded. It was a small coach of only 16 sitting seats and in all there were 24 people. Everyone sort of knew each other by that time and I was the newcomer, who boarded in the middle of nowhere. So I narrated my story again. After some time I learnt about a lady’s recent stomach operation; another lady’s troubles with teaching his son English; another one who was going to attend a wedding and her husband is posted in Sikkim and many more. There was Aparajita (~3-4 yreas old) who refused to talk to me but once I took out a biscuit packet she was all the more friendly!

Everytime the train stopped I would look out to see if Daund has come because i didn’t want to miss this stop and go in a third direction. Aparajita’s mother told me “Relax, we will tell you when Dound comes!”.

From Daund onwards there was not much adventure, I took a passenger train to Pune and then a local from Pune to Lonavla and finally reached Lonavla at 5:10pm. As if to mock me the announcement at that time was: “Sinhagad express from Mumbai to Pune is arriving shortly at platform no. 2”.

Till Daund the journey was quite exciting. I was amazed at how everyone helped in their own capacity and how easy it was to converse and be part of people’s lives in the general compartment. I usually travel 3rd or 2nd AC, where it is most difficult to strike a conversation with even your neighbour. Rarely does one get fortunate enough to receive random acts of kindness. And when it happens it leaves us so happy from within. I was humbled by the troubles the railway staff  and the ladies in the Bangalore-Delhi express took for me. It strengthened my belief in the inherent goodness of people and somehow I feel this could happen only in India (I know it’s clichéd, but it’s true). If I ask myself, ‘Do I regret it?’ – No; but ‘Do I want to repeat it?’ – No!. Despite all the discomforts, I will always remember this 11 hour journey with a smile.

Categories: around us, Travel, work | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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