Once upon a time, 78 hours ago– I was cruising home from the market and listening to my tummy calling out for lunch. Sunny day with storm clouds gathering at the horizon, a clear crisp breeze in the air, and the car gliding effortlessly past curves, bumps and craters—yes, that was me alright.
One minute minus 78 hours ago – On a broad curve, I see a large taxi bearing down relentlessly towards me. I move off the narrow road, slow down—BAM.. The car flies back with the impact, and I narrowly miss the experience of plummeting down the hill slope. The car door is jammed, bonnet crumpled, headlight broken and bumper smashed. By the time I jumped out of the other side and ran to the bemused driver in the equally smashed taxi, we had created a traffic jam which grew by geometric progression. It was the last weekend of the school vacations and tourists were swarming all over the hill slopes.
There was the usual exchange of incivilities and accusations, while white-hot anger spread all over my nervous system. I had taken the key out of the taxi, and had pushed the driver into a corner ….then came the realization that I was all alone in the middle of the road. I could see a long angry traffic jam on both sides, hordes of men gathering around the cars, commenting and judging my driving skills and confused tears began welling up behind my eyes. I had never felt so alone in Ranikhet as I did that moment.
Ten minutes minus 78 hours ago—I make two feverish phone calls for help. One call went out to Raju (my driver on call, angel for assistance and foster-son-in-spirit) and the other one to Hema working at home. The jam was getting long and noisy. Impatient tourist buses , worried local taxis with travelers missing connecting buses, school kids returning from home. I moved the car and the traffic began to move past.
Fifteen minutes minus 78 hours ago— Our apartment residents, Hema and the rest of the staff, people from the toll post and my friends from the Jal Nigam were all around me. Someone brought me water; someone else took all the shopping- stuff home and put it inside, my women friends hugged me tight and my neighbor, an eminent Delhi lawyer stood beside me for the next four hours. Raju sent the police to check out the matter, the commanding officer of the army regiment arrived to see if I was alright and I was not alone anymore.
76 hours ago—the police had taken the driver for a medical test, the traffic had eased and the taxi owner had arrived to meet me. My anger had been replaced by tiredness and trepidation—negotiating with the taxi owner about the police report, the repair costs etc, was something I was really not enthusiastic about. Negotiations were all about bargaining, pinning blame on each other and trying to get the maximum possible benefit out of the other party. I had seen it ever so many times, and I knew I was going to be a miserable failure at this. My Hindi is full of laughable grammar goof-ups ( those Bengali genes!!), and I need to hear just one sob-story to cave in completely!
73 hours ago—My car had reached the 102 year old service station. The genteel and considerate proprietor, Mr Sharif had assured an excellent recovery for the battered car. The sincerely apologetic taxi owner , Mr Anil Singh, had assured me that the complete repair bill was his privilege. I had been promised that a car would be sent home if I needed conveyance and that every possible help was there for asking. In return, I had to inform the belligerent police officer that I did not want to file a case against the driver. I was escorted by the respectful members of the taxi union to the police station, and after completing the formalities, after being reassured by the police that they would be watching the progress of car repair etc, after having a talk with the now-apologetic driver ( I realized he was bone tired after election duties, not dead drunk or drugged), I reached home to a 5 pm lunch. A tearful but relieved Hema offered to stay the night with me, while her family took care of themselves and the little kids. My friends sent over their car and driver for my use. My neighbors chalked plans to send me meals for the next two days.
24 hours ago—I have two errand boys to do my shopping, I have a fridge stuffed with goodies and I am replete with gratitude. Mr Anil Singh personally escorted my visiting friend to the railway station( 90 kms and 4 hours away) and ensured that she was comfortably ensconced in her chair car. The garage sends me a morning update on the repair progress. Mr Singh makes a daily call to ask if I need anything and I keep waiting for this goodwill bubble to burst.
Today—the goodwill bubble has become a heart-warming shell around me. I am surrounded by all these caring and courteous people who genuinely want to see me happy. I had no idea that they existed in my life a few days ago, and now, am I on a steep learning curve!
- Focus on the good things which underline a bad/challenging time.. Yes, the car got damaged. Yes, it happened in spite of me driving on the right side/driving slow. Yes, it’s is really difficult to get by without the habitual car. But, I found so many supporters, friends and well-wishers in this tiny town which I have been calling home for only 27 months.
- Accept the help, the genuine caring and assistance which people reach out with. It’s so easy to be cynical and question the motive of any caring person. It’s so easy to greet goodness with derision and belittle the helping hand. But, I found that by being open to help and by being ready to take assistance, it was easier for people to offer their unstinted help in whatever capacity they could.
- Be grateful, be glad. It’s so easy to listen and to believe those skeptical and distrusting thoughts which effortlessly well up in our minds. But, I realize now that the more I am willing to believe in the goodness around me, the more will I find kindness and decency settling around me.