“To Help or Not to Help??”
There are people in this world who seem to just know the answer to that question. – “NO”.
Not just the answer to that question, but also an explanation on, why it’s a “NO.” Anyway, those great souls are not the subject here. I want to talk about the other bunch who are unsure of it.
To begin with, and keeping it short, —
There’s no better way to feel like a human!
But that’s not what it’s all about. It is about the fact that, sometimes a stranger’s life’s incredible amount of fate depends upon us — while we have no cognizance of it. And for that smallest amount of help that comes at the right time, one person can probably remain grateful towards you forever. I read a small piece of another person’s story here and suddenly it prompted me of an event from my own life.
One fine day, my father received a call from an unknown person, and he immediately rushed to take out his car. Upon being asked where he was heading to, he informed us that his father (my grandfather), had lost his route to our house while travelling from his own place to ours. He was pretty old by that time and still insisted on travelling alone because he was capable of it. And always, he had made it successfully to our place. In those days, old men were not used to using telephones to apprise of their arrival plans and he used to show up almost always uninformed. In our previous neighbourhood, on few occasions, he had arrived in our absence and would wait at a neighbours’ place until we returned. But by that notable day, we had shifted to a new location far away from the previous one and though I can’t clearly recall what exact information he was carrying about our new address — he, as usual, had started off for our house, without making a phone call! Then it so happened that he lost his way, roamed around in the city for don’t know how long, and then took a stranger’s help to make a phone call to my father. “THANK GOD he was carrying the number with him, on a piece of paper possibly”, I thought. The only piece of thing that saved us a lot of troubles. But that’s not all, the bigger saviour was that stranger who spared enough time to use the number and connect to us so that grandfather could get the necessary help. During those days, mobile phones also were not commonplace, and surely it would have taken a bit of an effort for the man to find a public booth, maybe, and call up my father.
I was shocked, and couldn’t help but wonder about all the things that could have gone wrong. What if he wasn’t carrying the phone number, in that old age he might have had to return all the way back to home after a futile attempt to find our house (it took a long and exhausting journey just one-way). What if someone with wrong intentions had taken him for a ride in the pretext to get help and cheated him his money. There aren’t any shortage of scoundrels also after all. Even though he was a smart man, he had grown old, — and old people are vulnerable. What if he had gone missing? What kind of emotions would have my father gone through if anything unexpected had happened? But thankfully for one man’s small gesture, we evaded undergoing all such emotions. The substantial thing that is on my mind about that day is gratitude, even more than a decade later that incident.
Fast-forward, few years after the grandpa-episode. I was on my way somewhere, on a pretty hot and humid day – and quite exhausting one particularly. From what I can vaguely remember, I was probably waiting for the signal to go green to cross the road when I saw an old man approaching towards me. I could tell from his face, he was tired — when he asked me, “how far is the stop so-and-so from here?” That stop was quite far and definitely not walkable even for someone like me at that time, and he was an old man — plus the heat was unbearable and draining. I told him there were auto rickshaws available who picked people on shared fare — and the location where the old man wanted to go was right on the route of that auto. He then asked me how much that would cost, to use one of those auto-rickshaws — I told him an approximate amount. He didn’t seem too impressed to learn about it albeit shared-autorickshaws had like throwaway charges and were the cheapest mode of transport used by the poor as well as the middle class — for its frequency and convenience. After a couple of seconds, I noticed he was almost in tears — then he said, “I’ve already walked for nearly 8-10 kilometers since morning and I have no idea how I am even gonna make it there now — if it is that far away as you told me. I don’t even have enough money with me. I think I’m going to die!” I noticed the last sentence also had a tone of exasperation in it. Perhaps on himself or whoever made him set on his underprepared journey that day without giving him enough information or money, or whatever! But there was frustration and anger.
This brings me back to my initial question, “to help or not to help him!“. Now that’s a known scenario, right?? Stranger on the road… strike a conversation… then the mention of how they have run out of money… etc. Most of us would want to get away, for the fear of being duped. Well, that is where I trust my intuitions. To me, that man looked genuinely in pain. Moreover, he went on enquiring about the distance that he’d have to walk to reach the place, how much the fare would be etc., ended up mentioning that he had not enough money for an auto fare. But “not once” he uttered a word which meant a request for any sort of help! It’s been so long since that day, I hardly remember the facts and figures about the distance or fare etc., but I certainly remember he NEVER said a word which implied a request for financial help! I offered him money and told him that was more than enough to pay the fare and advised him to take the transport and not try to walk all the way. I left the place sincerely hoping that he’d reach his destination safely. On my way back I kept remembering about the day someone like me had one day helped my grandfather find his way. I said a silent ‘Thank You‘ to that man whom I had never even seen.
Does that mean I help every person I meet on the road? “No!” There are times, I clearly sense lies and turn my face away — for scoundrels like them humanity in this world is on the decline. There have been even times I’d be sceptical. For example, not too long ago from now, a young man came to me and said his wallet had been stolen and he needed to get back to the home where he’d have to take a long distance bus. I asked him how much the bus fare would require, and he told me an amount. It wasn’t that big — I could totally lose that in some abandoned old jeans and never know it was gone! Since I had a bit of suspicion, I said to him, “for now, I’d choose to believe you, but I will also give you a chance to prove that you weren’t fake, and hence you must deposit that money back in my bank account — here is cash and the account number.” He nodded and took the amount and went off. That money was never returned. The next day I told about this to my colleagues who laughed at me. Naturally one might feel saddened to have been deceived by someone. I wasn’t, because I’d have been sadder if I had been left with thoughts of what-if’s about that man’s credibility. What if he had been actually in need of help — Somebody had to help, right?
There have been times when people owing me nothing have helped me simply by choice. Despite having said a heartful ‘thanks‘, words never seemed to be enough to express the gratefulness. Whenever I happen to lend a hand to someone — I deduce that there are ways we can still express gratitude to people even in the absence of a mode of any communication — and my such actions are nothing but my little tributes to them.