by Athira Pillai about a year ago in humanity

A Subtle Peep into Being Humane...


Ever have one of those days where you feel everything and everyone is evil around you? Fortunately or unfortunately, I get that consistently. So, when it is one of those mean blue-purple days when I feel completely at my wit's end with humanity, I rummage through my mind map to an instance that happened a few years ago. I share this instance with you guys in the hope that some of you may find solace thinking about it, as much as my chaotic mind does. 🙂

This, as I call, is a tale of two strangers.

It was a crisp Mumbai evening. I don’t remember the time exactly, but I’m guessing it was around 6ish. Well, that’s when usually people get off work. It was right before I left for the U.S., which naturally called for an extra amount of unnecessary shopping. After a day of running around a myriad number of shops, my sister and I ended up at a Pani Puri stall. (For all my lovely Non-Indian friends out there, Pani Puri is an Indian Street food. Mouthwatering, yummily delicious, it is one of the 435 items that I dearly miss having here in New York. You all must try it some time and thank me if you do or even better, take me along with you. :/ )

And I’m sorry, as much as I have an affinity towards sophisticated eateries, shops, or clothing, there is no comparison when it comes to Tea and Pani Puri from the street side vendors. Anyway, moving on—as we gorged on the Pani Puri, a middle-aged man stopped by the stall. From the ragged look of his attire, I would presume he was a construction worker. He asked the vendor, ‘How much for a plate?’ While serving us, the vendor replied, ‘20 rupees’. My eyes darted towards the man. We saw him lay his arm out. There were a few coins laid out on his palms that he started to count. What I saw on that man’s face was a concoction of hunger and disappointment as he realized the money he had was not enough.

Maybe he hadn’t eaten all day, or perhaps he just wanted to reward himself for the day’s work with some food, I did not know. I just knew that the expression on his face at that moment would stay with me for a lifetime. We felt terribly sorry for the man. I looked at my sister, and without voicing a word, we understood what we could do. She asked the vendor if he could serve him a plate and that if we could pay for it. That’s when the most amazing thing happened. The vendor simply declined and said that he would serve the man without expecting any money in return. I found myself being awestruck. It was the purest form of humanity that I had witnessed. The vendor did not have to serve the man. He could have just taken the money from us and saved one plate of his income. But he chose to satiate the man’s hunger. It was a simple transaction of what one needed and what one could offer. How difficult was that act? One would think it’s not, right?

There is a huge difference between a human being and being human. Unfortunately, very few understand it. It’s the sad truth that we are living in a world of momentary pleasures, a world where we don’t think twice about our actions, or it’s consequences on people. A world where it has somehow become OKAY to inflict pain on other beings and still be consciously content with it.

I am certain most of us come across instances like these in our quotidian life. Instances that leave us feeling 'something'. You know what I mean? And at times like this, when your world falls apart, when you read or hear news and happenings around the world that would make you cringe or even when you feel like, life just could not be any weirder, an anecdote of a kind stranger that you meet on the street side might just help rekindle your faith in humanity. ~Xo

Athira Pillai
Athira Pillai
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