Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Tag: Compassion (page 1 of 2)

When Faiths Unite

Situated side by side
Sharing a wall
There stand
Two shrines

In the morning
The temple prays
In the shadow of the mosque

In the evening
The mosque prays
In the shadow of the temple

At night
Both shrines, they hum
And watch each other’s back
For they share,
The same spine

The temple’s bell
A muezzin’s call
How elegantly
Do faiths entwine

We wear different caps
But should we ever fight
For what’s yours
And what’s mine?

So shall we stand
In each other’s shadow
When tomorrow,
The sun shines?

Caps aside,
Can sing a few lines?
In a rhythm divine
Of this elegant design?

 


 

The Yellow Balloon

It was a windy winter morning. Little Kalpana was standing on the pavement next to the traffic signal, waiting for the lights to turn red. She was a balloon seller, like the many other kids who lived on the streets. The one minute window of red lights on the traffic signal was the arena of her life. She held a wooden stick that had 10 balloons tied on to it. The colorful balloons dangled in the air as she ran from windscreen to window, hoping to make a sale.

That morning, an elderly gentleman named Ajay, was strolling on the pavements. He had taken a detour from his usual morning walk route in the park. From far away, he could see bright balloons hanging in the air, rising up from the stalled traffic. It was a wonderful sight to witness from a distance. He strutted slowly towards the balloons.

But as he got closer to the signal, the traffic lights turned green, and all cars moved onward. What was left was a little girl, with ten balloons, standing barefoot on the dusty road. The colorful sight of the balloons suddenly lost all its charm. Ajay, realized that the little girl was selling balloons for a living.

As he came closer to the traffic signal, Kalpana ran towards him, hoping to sell a balloon to the old man.

There were no words spoken. Ajay stopped on the pavement, and Kalpana stood right in front of him, with hope in her eyes.

Ajay smiled. In that moment, he gave her something that was denied to her all her life. A modicum of attention.

He dug into his pocket and slid out a ten rupee note. Kalpana’s eyes lit up. She quickly untied a yellow balloon from her stick and offered it to the old man.

Ajay gave the ten rupee note to her. He held the soft thread that was tied on to the yellow balloon. He smiled and offered the balloon to Kalpana.

She could not understand the transaction. The old man looked into her eyes one last time and walked away. Little Kalpana stood on the pavement with the ten rupee note and the yellow balloon in one hand and the stick with nine balloons in the other hand.

Before she could take a moment to understand what had happened, the traffic began to swell up. She quickly got to work again, trying to sell balloons on the roadside.

Later in the evening, she was left with two balloons. In her right hand, she had the yellow balloon and dangling from the stick in her left hand, there was a red balloon.

A lady in a car summoned Kalpana by blaring her car horn. She ran quickly to her, hoping to sell the last balloon and go home.

The lady asked for two balloons. Kalpana looked up at both the balloons.
At that moment, as she looked at the yellow balloon, a strong feeling took over her heart. How could she sell the yellow balloon? It was hers!

Somehow, she found the courage to say she only had one balloon to sell.
The lady in the car asked for the yellow one for her kid seated next to her. Little Kalpana was firm about her emotion for the yellow balloon. She told the lady that only the red balloon was up for sale.

The signal was about to turn green soon. Caving to the wheedling of her little kid, the lady in the car bought the red balloon from Kalpana. Soon, the car was gone, in the direction of the next traffic signal.

Kalpana was only left with one balloon. The yellow one.
A smile surfaced on Kalpana’s innocent face. She danced her way to her hut next to the pavement, with the yellow balloon, the sun of her life.

That morning, the elderly gentleman Ajay, had bought something priceless with just ten rupees.
With the compassionate transaction, he had brought Kalpana, a moment of her own childhood.

 


Photo by Sagar Patil via Unsplash

How a Himalayan trek refined my Education about Veganism

It had been five hours since we started our trek downhill from Beding, a little hamlet in the Rolwaling valley in North-East Nepal.
Exhausted as we were, the sight of a house at a distance felt like spotting an Oasis.
Our determined feet stamped onward to reach the solitary house in a village called Dugong.

We could smell a local alcohol made out of rice called ‘Rakshi’ brewing in the kitchen.

‘Namaste, Ajool…’ my friend Lee greeted enthusiastically.

An elderly Sherpa lady stooped out of her house with the most welcoming smile I’ve ever been graced with.

She invited us into her kitchen-cum-restaurant.

We could see she only had two wood fired stoves with her with one brewing the ‘Rakshi’.

‘Khana Jaldi Chaiyo’ Lee explained with animation that we need food fast.

She laughed and pointed her finger towards a packet of noodles. I was sure she was used to the state of hunger of trekkers.

We assented at her suggestion and she got busy in her kitchen.

The house was made out of a lot of wood, labor and love. The cutlery, minimal and neatly arranged. There was water pipe delivering water right to her house straight from the little cascade behind her log cabin. The place had an energy of contentment, one that can only come with age, acceptance and wisdom.
There was a place for everything and everything was in its place.

After a moment, I wondered what this old lady would be doing for company. She only had one neighbour who seemed to be out for work in the forest.

‘She must surely feel lonely all by herself’ I wondered.

Within moments we heard the door of the kitchen being banged at. We wondered who it could be. The Sherpa lady’s face lit up with a smile. She reprimanded at the person at the door with unmistakable affection.

The determined banging continued on.
Finally she could no longer keep the door closed and lightly let it ajar.
And with the halo of the outside world behind itself, shone the bright white fur of a little baby sheep.

It jumped inside the kitchen and went straight to the lady. For the next half an hour, they played with each other like grandson and grandmother. There was such stubborn affection in the sheep for the lady, that it would never leave her alone. The lady would push it aside with loving aggression only to secretly expect it to come back to harass her.

Tumbling many pots and pans around the kitchen and eating out of places it shouldn’t, the baby sheep made itself feel at home.

The lady could only love the sheep more. There was no other way.

Once our meals were ready, she served us on the beautifully aged table made out of forest wood.
She rested herself on the ground, took the sheep in her lap and adoringly spoke to it in a language she was sure the sheep understood, only to not obey.

Just moments ago, I was feeling a bit sad for the woman who I assumed was living all by herself in this remote mountain village.
How wrong was I !
She had such a bountiful expression of life living alongside her.
The sheep was not just entertainment, or company or a means to have food, milk or leather for that matter.
It was life itself for her.

Witnessing this aspect of life changed my perspective profoundly.

A day ago, we were served Yak cheese with boiled potatoes in the village uphill. I was a bit hesitant while eating since I refrain from having animal products as much as possible.
But that was the only food available and we had to respect the emotion of the locals for whom Yak cheese is a delicacy reserved for special occasions.
We chose to eat what was served.

Much to my surprise, that was certainly one of the most delicious food combinations I had ever tasted.
I ate as much as I possibly could.
The next day, we saw free roaming Yak in the pastures nearby being milked lovingly by a village lady.

The Yak showed it’s affection back in equal measure, much like the baby sheep at the Sherpa lady’s house.

I felt fortunate for being able to witness this bond between humans and animals. I have lived in cities all my life and have never experienced this paradigm of a relationship.

A few years ago, I chose to follow a Vegan lifestyle, primarily educating myself from resources online about how cruel the animal rearing industry is.
My education happened mostly,
online.

But for the first time, I could actually see how effortlessly animals and humans exist symbiotically.
With sincere love for each other.
There was never a rope in sight to secure an animal, for their hearts were always strung together to their human friends’ hearts.
In harsh winter, the animals are taken care of by the local villagers like family. The village moves downhill to warmer places only when all its animals do.

In a way, it felt as if the animals took care of their human friends by giving them loving company, and perhaps a share of their milk.
Of course it can be disputed, and seen as exploitation.

I would argue like that earlier.

But once I saw the pristine relationship between man and animal in such harsh environment where weather and loneliness can take a toll on your health,
I realised the need for them to coexist in such beautiful harmony.

No animal is reared for meat in the villages here in the hills. And an animal’s death is mourned just as much as a family member’s.
Here, man chooses to be animal himself and treat another animal as family.

I turned Vegan thinking it would help end suffering, save the planet and create a peaceful world.
I still oppose commercial farming of animals.
But, this experience of witnessing symbiotic coexistence between man and animal has only made me realise my own animal self,
And how,
To understand our nature better, we need to spend time in nature.

While educating myself about veganism on my smartphone screen, all I could see was oppression and violence inflicted by us on animals.
I could feel a sense of guilt and hopelessness inside me for what we do to our fellow earthlings.

But out here in nature,
far away from the civilization I was brought up in, I could witness the animal side of us humans –
calm, compassionate and caring in the heart.
This education filled me with warmth, hope and optimism.

As I journey back to my life in the city,
A deeper understanding dawns upon me with each step,
About our true nature as a being,
The love we all have in our hearts,
And the way we should tread forward despite our conditioning,
Retaining the deep loving spirit that is part of us all.

Once we can do that, can we ever hurt any being?

Yak cheese tastes amazing by the way.
But what would feel inevitably better and worth experiencing is the gentle rub of a Yak’s fur on your shoulder on a windy winter morning.

 

 

What writing everyday taught me about being a better person

A few days ago, one of my friends asked me a question that I had never confronted myself with.

‘How do you manage to write a blog post every day? What’s the most difficult part about it?’

I thought about it for a while. And I realised, writing a blog post is not the most difficult thing in the exercise. It is writing the first few lines of the blog post that’s most challenging. Once you’re past the first few lines, the blog post fashions itself.
All I have to do is get past the first few lines. Once I am past the inertia, it is a breeze.

The same is also true for physical activities. I remember the toughest phase of my bicycle trip to the mountains to be the first half an hour of the ride.
Once your body is warmed up, you don’t even realise you’re bicycling. The process just happens on its own.

Extrapolating further,
I wonder if the same is true for the more human qualities one wishes to embody.
We all wish to be better human beings.
We desire to be more loving, more accepting, more friendly and allow ourself to have an open heart.

But if we think of starting to embody these qualities all through our existence, the task, however desirable, seems to be far too daunting.

How do I have such an open heart full of love all through my life !’ one would wonder.

But there is a way of thinking that makes the task much easier and accessible.

Say you wish to be more compassionate and loving.
Don’t think about being compassionate and loving all through your existence.

Just start to be compassionate and loving in the present moment.

Once you are past the barricades you’ve built around your heart, the task becomes easier and but natural.

Of course, this has to be practiced every single day with solemn awareness.
Just how I choose to begin to write and get past the first few lines every single day.

Before you know you will have a continuum of existence, full of the qualities you always wished to embody.

Open your heart and ask,
What quality do I wish to imbibe.
And start.
Everyday.

You will realize your better self with every glorious sunrise.

To your undeniable growth.

 

 

Who is a friend?

How we define a friend changes with age doesn’t it?
I remember when I was little, anyone who would choose to share time and space with me was my friend. And what an eclectic mix of friends did I have !
The carpenter working at home was my friend, so was the lady selling Jamun berries on the street. The scientist uncle who introduced me to the wonderous night sky to the toddler rocking in the pram next door,
The immediate world around me was full of friends!

But over time, as it happens to all of us, the group of friends narrowed down to a chosen few. We had limited time on our hands and had only so much of our attention we could give to people around.
Friends became our world but that world also shrunk considerably as compared to childhood.

We share a mysterious friendship with a childhood friend. Even if we haven’t talked to them in years, the moment we hear their voice over a phone call, we feel a profound camaraderie.
Why is that?

A few reason I can think of that could explain it :

1) A childhood friend reminds us of our roots, of who we were,
Of where we’re coming from. (Past)

2) They not only serve as a repository of nostalgia but also a messenger that informs us how much we’ve grown from who we used to be. (Present)

3) And most importantly, they care about our growth, about where we are headed. (Future)

It is a precious bond indeed.

Over the course of my bicycle journey I experienced an emotion I had never experienced before.
I felt a deep sense of friendship towards people who I was meeting for the first time. It almost felt as if they were all similar to a childhood friend in some mysterious way.

I realised that most of the people I met on the road exhibited one of the three above mentioned qualities

For instance, a little Thai kid on Phuket beach who lit a bonfire for me reminded me of my playful and exuberant childhood. He reminded me of where I came from. (Past)

A sister teaching her brother how to ride a bicycle on the street reminded of how difficult it was for me to learn to do the same. It had taken me several months.
And today, I’m fearlessly Bicycling into the unknown.
They reminded me of how far I’ve come.(Present)

Or an old Thai grandma who on realising that I had a long uphill ride to finish before sundown, chose to push my bicycle while I was riding to help me get to the destination.
She helped in whatever way she could because my growth, my progress mattered to her at some level. (Future)

These experiences only opened up my mind to consider everyone I meet as a friend.
Every beginner reminds me of who I was, where I started, where I’m coming from.

Every expert, through his work, helps me yearn for betterment. Despite not knowing me personally, I still see a friend in them because I’m sure my growth would matter to them if they came to know how much they inspire me.

Every contemporary guides me about my growth over the course of time I’ve known them.

I am of the firm belief that we can only design a better world if we all grow together, collectively.

For the growth of the world, personal growth is indispensable.

How do I see the growth of the world in the light of friendship?

To me, a friend is someone whose growth matters to me.
If I wish to see positive growth in the world, I need to see the same in the individual, in each human being.

In the interest of engineering a better world, we ought to care about each other’s growth, even that of a stranger’s.

Having this worldview helps to cultivate compassion towards everyone around us.

Your growth matters to me,
And hence, You are a friend in my heart.

I hope, in your heart,
I too am a friend.

And I believe,
Our collective growth,
Our collective friendship and brotherhood
Will engineer the change in the world we all wish to see.

What do you think, my friend ?

 

Smile, will you?

I had been bicycling uphill constantly for an hour and a half. I wished to reach a village called Marhi, 40 kms uphill from Manali, India.

At one point, the elevation was too steep for me to keep the bicycle in motion. I decided to stop catch a much needed breath. My heart was racing like that of caged mice on steroids. I leaned my head down to rest it on the handlebar and slowly let my heart rate drop with each deep breath.

In this incapacitated state, I heard a voice from behind.

‘Hey, where are you coming from?’ asked a man wearing a friendly smile.

‘I have been bicycling from Delhi. Today, I wish to reach Marhi, about 30 kms up from here.’

He took a good look up and down my petite body frame.

With an equal measure of wonder and resolve, he said,
‘I own a gym back home. But I myself feel quite unfit. I used to take a car from home to the gym and then exercise hoping to lose weight.
But today, after seeing you, I promise that I will get myself a bicycle and bike to the gym everyday.
You gave me great energy !’

I wondered, how could I, being in such a beaten down, tired state, could still energise a random stranger on the road?

His gesture eased my heart. I thanked him and continued onward.

At a point where I was vulnerable, this person acknowledged my presence, my pursuit and my grit and replenished me with energy.
I realised how much a person desires to be acknowledged.

Moving on, I saw a board on the highway that grabbed my attention. It mentioned the name of the army engineer who first envisioned and surveyed the Manali-Leh highway. I felt good to know of the visionary man who dared to dream of a highway in such treacherous terrain.

Further down the road, I saw construction workers toiling away under the full sun, building a section of the highway. A few kilometers ahead, there were people laying down optical fiber cables.

And I wondered, the names of these people will never appear on any sign board saying that they helped build a highway, or they laid the cables for the high speed internet we would enjoy.
Then, at that moment, I remembered how much I’d liked being acknowledged by the gym owner in the highway.

It is such a human quality after all!

Right then, I made a decision to wave at or give a thumbs up to each person I find working on the road.
And thereafter, no construction worker was ever left without a smile.
Some of them were apprehensive to smile. That just made me realise how rarely were they even acknowledged as humans.

This experience only made me believe that we should acknowledge and celebrate these name less faceless humans who work hard in oblivion to ensure our lives run smoothly.

Next time you find someone whose work would mostly go unacknowledged, choose to just smile at them, give a thumbs up, or if you can afford the time, talk to them for a bit.

Your attention and affection are precious.
Choose to ration a little of it to people who go unnoticed.
All of sudden, the world around you will embody more love and brotherhood.

It all boils down to your choice.

Smile, will you?

 

 

I am a Volunteer for Life

I’ve been riding my bicycle in India for ten days now. And it is the first time I rented a place to stay at night. On all other nights I would either sleep at a Gurudwara or a temple or at a friend’s place.
Today is my first paid stay so to say. I feel such a huge difference between the experiences of being hosted and paying to stay.
The place where I am staying looks like a chawl in Mumbai suburbs of the 90s. There is no fan, shower, Wifi, clean linen or even a doormat. There is a 50 watt bulb that infuses gloom in disptempered walls.
Frankly, it is quite a sad place.

But that is not what bothers me the most. I’ve stayed at places where I’ve had to sleep on the floor, in under construction houses and on one occasion I even spent the night on a bench at a bus stop.
I’ve spent most of my nights at a Gurudwara or a temple in India.
And I was totally okay with the utmost basic facilities I had at these places.

Why?

Because I was invited with open arms without any expectation of a transaction.
I had the freedom to move around and look for opportunities to help in the best manner I could.
I have volunteered in community kitchens, served food at the langars, swept floors, helped wash dishes for hours and on one occasion I even volunteered to clean up a disgusting community toilet out of my own desire to make things better.
I’ve slept in community halls on the floor after the long day filled with 6 hours of cycling and volunteering thereafter.
Yet, I have always slept like a baby and woken up with enthusiasm and purpose with the first light of the sun.

But today, in this enclosed space in the guest house, I feel sleepy, drained and devoid of energy.

I realised, maybe a transactional reality is not the context that brings out the best in me.
Here, at the guest house, I pay money and get a place to stay.
A transaction.
It doesn’t serve my spirit.

I would rather wish to engineer a context where I am free to contribute in whatever way I am capable of, at a place where I can engage with people and hopefully make friends and leave behind the place in a better condition.

It is not even about being a stingy traveller, who is always careful with money. I contributed monetatily at most places I was hosted for free, because I wish these places to exist and multiply, so that we have another context to experience. Because I want places that foster brotherhood to thrive.

While I know, the people running this guest house need money for sustenance and I’m happy to give them business, I realised this is not the best context for me to stay at.

In the interest of feeling more energised , enthused and eager to contribute I would choose to stay at a temple or a gurudwara or a kind host’s place.

This experience also made me understand why people choose to volunteer even on weekends despite a busy work week.
Volunteering is such an energising experience!
It will only fill you up with love and hope.

Maybe this weekend, instead of choosing to sleep over till late in the morning and going out for a brunch at a restaurant, I would like to suggest an alternative.

Go to a Gurudwara and volunteer at the community kitchen. They accept help form anyone who is willing to volunteer.
Instead of spending money at the restaurant, eat at the Langar in the Gurudwara for free.
I assure you, the experience will only leave you happy and energised.
And you will wish to donate a fraction of the money you would have spent at the restaurant to the Gurudwara donation box.

It is a much better investment of time and money.

Tomorrow, I am going to leave my bicycle behind and trek with a couple of friends to Kheerganga, Himachal Pradesh.
It is likely that I will pitch up a tent for the first time in India.
Since I would be hosted by mother nature in the valley, I am wondering how to be of help to her.
I have a huge garbage bag folded up in my backpack.
Maybe, I will just pickup all the trash that doesn’t belong in mother nature’s lap.

I can’t help being helpful.

I choose to be a volunteer for life.

I hope you have a fulfiling weekend my dear friend !

 

 

Choosing the right path

I was due to leave Thailand in a couple of days. Wondering how to get my bicycle packed in a case, I looked around for a bike shop that could help me.
Fortunately, I found a bike shop, ‘Bok Bok Bike’ run by a kind gentleman named Ma.

I went in to be greeted by his warm, welcoming smile. I felt as if I had arrived at the right place.
I asked him if he could help me get a cardboard casing for packing my bike for the flight back home.
He readily agreed and said I could come on the day I had my flight and pack it up the way I wished.
I felt relieved on hearing his offer.
I asked him for the best way to get the bicycle and my luggage to the airport. He got wondering. He seemed to be thinking of ways I could transport my bike. He suggested that I could book a big cab to the airport.
The following day I reached his shop at 2pm. The box was already waiting for me inside. He helped me pack up my bicycle in the best manner possible.

I asked him what I owed him for his help. He smiled, just the way he did the first time we met.

‘It is free for you. Enjoy your ride back home!’

And I knew I could never make an even offer with money.

‘Ma, can you help me book a cab?’ I asked.

Oh, one of my friends stays close to the airport. He will be visiting me in the evening.
You can go with him to the airport in his pickup truck. Just pay for the toll.

You’ll save time and money.’

At that moment I felt grateful and helpless at the same time. Grateful for him abundant kindness and helpless for I could think of no way to make up for his help on an immediate basis.

I rushed to my bag and took out my Polaroid camera.

Ma, I have a little project I wish to share with you. I click pictures for all the kind and helpful people I meet on my journey.

Can I click a picture for you?’

He readily agreed and I clicked a candid picture for him in his shop.
I hugged him goodbye with sincere hope of meeting him in India when he bicycles here on a tour.

Today, I reached Kolkata, India.
Here, I am staying with my childhood friend’s family.
I had issues with my SIM card not being active when I came back to India. My friend’s father sent me with his driver to the mobile store to get my sim reactivated. The driver, Ratanjeet, a chatty Bengali folk made good conversation all throughout our ride to the store.
He helped me communicate with the mobile store staff in Bengali.
We were told that the SIM will be activated only 48 hours later.
As we were leaving the shop Ratanjeet asked me,

Sir, it would be so much trouble to not have a phone for two days.
We can get a new SIM for you in my name. You can use it for two days and then give it to me when you leave.
I’ll use it later as needed.’

I was pleasantly surprised by his eagerness to find a solution.

Thank you so much Ratanjeet, but I think it will be okay for me to not have a number for a couple of days. ‘

In the evening, I sat back and wondered about these two incidents that happened with a span of 24 hours in two different countries.
Two complete strangers went out of their way to help me in the best manner possible. In fact, it wasn’t even about me. I am sure they would have gone out of their way to help someone they thought they could help.

Then I realised,
These kind humans,
are not going out of their way at all.

Helping people in need, is the only right way in their eyes.

We often hear elders tell us to choose the correct path in our life. After meeting these two gentlemen, I am convinced that the correct way,
The noble path,
Is one where there are avenues to help others.

Grateful for the profound lessons my friends Ma and Ratanjeet introduced me to,
I too am enthusiastic to join their tribe,
Of kind strangers,
On the noble path,
Of helping people with an open heart.

Buddha behind the wheels

Riding on the highways can be tricky at times. As a cyclist, I have to be extremely careful about the traffic etiquette. I need to be on the leftmost lane all the time and give way to vehicles speeding past me in the other lanes.
While it has been pleasant bicycling in Thailand, today I was made to realise how particular I have to be while changing lanes.
In the afternoon, a particular gentleman in a pick up truck drove by quite close to me within a hair’s distance while taking a free left turn.
Thankful of being left unscathed, I wondered how I could ride better.

I have been avoiding riding at night since I do not have enough lights to keep me visible from afar.
I thought maybe my bicycle should have indicator lights!
I kept pedalling on dreaming about this.

Until I saw another gentleman standing near his pickup truck near a temple on the highway. I guess he had just come out of the temple after offering alms to the monks.
It was a strange sight to spot a white-western gentleman in rural Thailand.

I slowed down a bit as I approached him.

He handed a packet to me which I presumed had food.

He quickly got in his truck and left. He honked twice to wish goodbye as he drove past.

In some time I stopped to rest. I was hungry and hoping to eat what he might have given me in the packet.
Do you know what I found in the packet?
To my surprise,
I found a set of bike lights !

It seemed like such a spooky coincidence. I met a man for ten seconds on the highway. Without even exchanging any pleasantries, he offered me something that I might be needing the most and left without a trace.

I affixed the light he gave me for the bike, still blown away by the turn of events.

This gentleman didn’t only give me lights for my bike,
He enlightened me in many ways.
He showed me the light towards being kind for the sake of kindness.
To help without even wishing to be remembered.
To represent the undeniable light that shines in us all.

He must be God.
Or at least his gesture,
Decidedly Divine.

Brim with the spirit of embracing kindness as a way of life,
I pedal on…

 

Priceless Bananas

The shadows were getting longer by the minute.  As I passed by milestone after milestone, I found myself still quite far away from the nearest town. It had been a long day bicycling under the full sun.
I was hoping to buy a bunch of bananas for dinner. I only had 29 Baht with me to spare. With no ATM around me on the highway, that was my allowance for food for the night.

On the way, I saw a few shops adjacent to the road selling food. I slowed down to see if any of them had bananas.
Luckily, one of them did. I stopped to catch a breath before I spoke.

But as it happened, I didn’t need to speak at all. A lovely woman stood up and put a big bunch of bananas in a bag and gave it to me.
Since I didn’t have much money, I wanted to ask how much they cost. I took out my phone and gestured her to type in the price in the calculator app.

To my surprise, she spoke back to me in fluent English.
‘No No, you don’t need to pay for this. It is a gift from me to you.’

‘No, I must pay for this !’ I insisted.

She smiled and continued,
‘These bananas are from my farm. Very delicious. No problem for me. You can enjoy them.’
And she put another bunch in the bag for me.

‘What is you name ?’ I asked her.

‘My name is Onn. I live in this village.’

‘Onn, I am from India.’

‘I know. I can tell from your face.’

Her demeanor had a warmth and innocence as if she was trying to make the first friend of her life.
I wished to give her something for her kind gift of a couple dozen bananas.

‘Onn, can I click a picture of you?’

‘Yes, Okay!’

‘This is a special camera. It is called a Polaroid. We will have the picture come out from the camera instantly.’

‘Oh really! ‘ she exclaimed and posed.

I clicked the picture and waited for it to develop in the dark.

‘You like Thailand?’

‘Yes, a lot !’

‘Why?’ she inquired.

‘Because of people like you!’ I shared gladly.

She wore an excited look as I gave her the Polaroid picture.

‘This is wonderful. I like it. Thank you !’

‘You can make it your ID card !’ I joked.

‘Yes yes ! Next time you come in this area, come again, I always have bananas from my farm.’

I joined my hands and bowed down to greet her Namaste.

‘Yes I will, I promise.’

I got on my bicycle and headed onward.

She waved goodbye to me, just like kids on the street do, knowing well that they would never see you again, and not allowing that awareness to quell the exuberance in their greeting.

I’d heard from marketers that to create a relationship with a customer, give free stuff to them when they least expect it. By doing so, you’ll create loyalty around your brand.

But this beautiful village woman, far removed from the context of business, shared what she had, without seeking any business in return.
She was just happy being an embassador of goodwill.

Had I paid for the bananas the usual way, she would have had money and I’d have had the Fruit.
But she chose to be generous,
And both of us have a beautiful memory,
To reminisce,
To share,
And most importantly the desire to carry the spirit of empathy, compassion and goodwill within us, on the journey of life.

Later in the night, I tasted one of the bananas. They were certainly the best ones I’ve ever tasted.
She was right to not put a price tag on it.
For certainly they are,
Priceless.

« Older posts