I’ve been on a bicycle trip for the past 8 days now. One of the most adventurous parts of this mode of travel is the mystery about where you will sleep at night.
For the last seven days I had some kind of an arrangement of my stay beforehand. I either had a couch surfing host or I would book a bed in a hostel in advance. But today, I set out quite late in the day towards a national park, 150 kms away. I was sure I would only be able to cover 100 km in a day at my very best. So I knew that I would have to sleep somewhere in between. It was the first day I wasn’t sure of my bed.
Towards evening as I finished close to 80 kilometers, it kept getting darker by the minute. I’d heard that you can stay at Thai Buddhist temples at night. Luckily I found a temple and went inside.
After failing to communicate with three monks due to my language issue ,I was asked to meet the head monk. I wrote in google translate ‘Can I stay in the temple tonight?’
The monk read the Thai translation and said ‘Chai'(yes in Thai)
Oh the relief !
I was escorted into an open hall and given a mosquito net. Soon after, a thunderstorm struck that lasted for two hours. Secured under a ceiling, I felt fortunate to have decided to not cycle further.
As I lay on my Yoga mat and write,
I cannot help but smile and wonder,
It doesn’t matter where my body lay,
As long as I’ve worked hard enough to earn my sleep.
Grateful for the kindness of strangers and content with the hard work of the day,
Sleep is only moments away.
I’ve been preparing for my bicycle trip for the past month. One of my kind friends let me have his old bike to use for the trip. Since the bike needed quite a bit of work to be in running condition, I took it to a bicycle shop to get it fixed.
Over the course of the month I would drop in many times to check on it. The mechanics were very friendly and they helped me in the best way they could.
There was one little hang up with my interaction with them though. I was quite sure they didn’t know me by my name.
And this suspense went on till the day I left. It was funny to find them navigate their way through the conversation without having to call me by my name.
As I start my bicycle trip today, I got wondering about this situation. It would be nice to be called by my name. But do I want to be remembered just by my name?
Or by my physical appearance?
I wish to be remembered for my human qualities. I would like to embody the best of me in all the interactions in daily life.
I’d strive to be kind, compassionate and helpful in the small everyday things that pass by as trivial to us all.
It would be enough for me to be known as a kind and helpful person.
Thinking like this also relieves me of the anxiety of not being remembered by my name. It encourages me to take the responsibility to represent the best version of myself.
I remember someone wise once remarked, ‘What ‘s in a name ?’
Indeed I say.
I had the pleasure of being visited by two friends over the weekend. We’d met after a long time and it felt great to share our life and energy. Today as they were leaving I asked if I could hitch a ride with them to Chennai. I wanted to visit a sporting equipment shop on the outskirts of the city. Kind as they are, they gladly agreed. We talked all along the two-hour long drive and before we knew it we reached a fork in the road. I wanted to go five kilometres further on the road going to the left. They had to continue to the right to reach the airport. My friends suggested that they could drop me right at the store since they had ample time to make this detour. I wondered it would be easy finding a bus and asked them to continue on to the airport. We bid goodbye and I walked over to the bus stop. However, only after an agonising wait of an hour in the scorching sun did I find a bus.
On a better note, the visit to the store was much fruitful. After shopping, I got onto a bus that headed towards home. I was dropped off at the highway late in the evening. I had to do the walking from the bus stop to home with all the equipment I had bought. I thought of asking for a lift from motorbikes headed towards home but something was holding me back. At last, after letting go five opportunities I lifted my hand and asked for a lift from a biker. He stopped and asked me where I wanted to go. Despite having to drop me a bit further away from where he had to go, he agreed to take me all the way home. That was a kind gesture by an absolute stranger.
As I write now, I wonder why do we hesitate to ask for help? Even in situations when people would gladly help. We just have to do the asking! By not seeking help, we deprive a person to access his kinder self and act with empathy. People like to be of help, even to absolute strangers. While we’re conditioned to believe that people act in a selfish way, there’s a whole other paradigm where people will go out of their way to help. Only when we open up, be vulnerable and seek help do we create a space for people to exhibit compassion.
Even our vulnerability can beget great strength in another human being.
As a lesson for today, I would ask for help whenever in need, in the interest of creating space for kindness.
Often when people introduce themselves, they have the answer to the next question one might ask to them ready.
‘Hey I am XYZ. ‘
What do you do ?
I am doctor / engineer / psychologist etc.
It got me wondering that all these titles are conferred by an institution when you complete your study.
But, would we able to call ourselves a ‘kind’ doctor, ‘ a compassionate engineer’ , ‘an empathetic psychologist’?
Incidentally, all these titles of kindness, empathy and compassion can only be conferred by the people who we help through our work.
And we can be kind, compassionate and empathetic without any education whatsoever. My grandmother embodies all the above traits and she’s never been to school. These are essential life skills that sadly we do not talk about in our educational institutions.
But the foremost pursuit of any human being should be to understand the sheer importance of cultivating a benevolent heart.
Let us pursue to be kind, compassionate and empathetic first. These are the real titles worth earning.
Always hopeful of a kinder future.