Not Minding My Own Business



The train entered Ghatkopar station. It was the first class ladies compartment of the 9.30 Thane local. I had my nose buried in Robin Sharma’s latest book. I felt, rather than saw, a girl take the seat opposite me.

Suddenly I heard a joyful, “Oh it’s you!” and felt someone tap my hand to get my attention.

Startled, I looked up to see the girl smiling broadly at me.

“Yes?” I asked puzzled. Did I know her? She certainly acted as if she knew me.

Seeing my bafflement she said, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“No, I’m sorry.” I answered, all the while scanning my memory for a trigger.

“But I will never forget you,” she said to my astonishment. “You changed my life.”

“I?” I asked in surprise, “and how did I do that?”

“It was about 2 years ago. I was the only one seated in the compartment and you entered,” she said, “I was sitting there alone and crying and instead of minding your own business, you spoke to me.”

“Oh yes. I remember now,” I said as I recalled that day.

When I entered the compartment that day two years ago, there was only one other occupant, a young girl who was sitting at the window, looking utterly miserable with tears flowing down her cheeks.

I glanced curiously at her and wondered, “Should I ask her what is wrong? Or should I just leave her alone?”

The voice of caution urged me to leave her alone, but she looked so miserable, that I decided to talk to her, and in any case, when had I ever listened to the voice of caution?

“What’s the matter?” I asked gently.

“Nothing,” she replied, wiping her tears and trying to smile.

“Then why are you crying? Sometimes talking to a stranger helps.” I smiled at her.

“No ma’am. It’s nothing. Just some problems with my colleagues at work.”

“And what did they do?” I asked.

“They just keep putting me down and making fun of everything I do. I just hate this job! I dread going in to work each morning.”

“Is this your first job?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

From the way she spoke, I gathered she couldn’t be more than 21 or 22, just fresh out of college. “Poor child!” I thought, “She’s got such a long way to go.”

“I can see how horrible you must be feeling,” I told her, “but tell me can you change their behaviour?”

“No ma’am,” she said, “how can I?”

“Then can you change how you feel about what they do?”

Startled, she looked up, “What ma’am?”

“Change how you react to them. Ask yourself why they are treating you so badly. I have generally found that people indulge in this kind of behaviour only when they are threatened by someone. Tell me, are you good at your job?”

“I think so ma’am,” she replied hesitantly.

“What does your boss say?”

“He always praises me.”

“See, that’s it. That’s why they are making fun of you.”

“But what can I do ma’am?”

“Well, the choice is yours. Either you lower your standard at work and wait for your colleagues to accept you or you can excel at whatever you do and climb so high that their hurtful actions and words can’t reach you. As Buddha once said, ‘If you don’t take what someone gives you, it remains with them.’ So if you don’t accept their hurtful comments and actions that pull you down, it remains with them and it can’t hurt you. And if you are doing your best and if you are doing the right thing, you are never alone. God is always on your side.”

“Now wipe those tears and give me a smile.” I ordered.

At that she smiled more confidently and said, “Thank you, I feel so much better now.”

“Good”, I said as I prepared to alight at my station, “Now go and make it a great day”

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And now two years later, she was sitting in front of me again. But what a difference! She was so confident, so full of life!

I realised that she was still speaking to me, “That day you really made me realise that I didn’t have to allow other people to control how I feel. It is all up to me. I started concentrating on what I could do rather than on what people said I couldn’t do.”

“Now I am working at a much bigger and better firm, in a higher position and I’m earning much more too,” she smiled. “And I have to thank you for it. I am so glad you spoke to me that day.”

Then she got up and gave me an impulsive hug and walked to the door to get off at the next station.

As I waved at her through the window, I too was glad that I hadn’t minded my own business that day.

P.S. Corinne Rodrigues’ post, ‘The power of Kindness‘ on her site, Everyday Gyaan, reminded me of this incident that happened a couple of years ago when I was still part of the corporate world.

Are you really going to kill me?


(Reposted from my blog “The quill of the phoenix“. Written in response to the heartbreaking picture by photojournalist Osman Sangirli )

Are you really going to kill me?
I really don’t want to die,
I’d rather run through the grass
And pretend that I can fly.

Are you going to kill me?
I really don’t want to die.
I have so much I want to learn,
So many things to try.

Are you going to kill me?
I really don’t want to die.
I promise I will be good.
I promise not to cry.

So please do not kill me.
I’m such a little guy.
I want to grow up someday.
I really don’t want to die.

Wheelchair Wonderings


Our trip to Bali had been planned over a year ago. My daughters were insistent that a holiday was much needed. And it was true. I couldn’t remember the last time I really had a restful holiday that was just a holiday and didn’t have a wedding or an engagement attached to it; or for that matter a puppy who had to be transported in a train and the subsequent arguements with the railway authorities about keeping her with me in my coach.

Even so, I argued loud and long that I did not have the kind of money for  an international holiday and that India had so many beautiful places that we could visit…blah,blah,blah. And then it happened. My daughters gave each other “that look”. Anyone who has twins will know what I mean. When twins give each other “that look” woe betide anyone or anything that they have decided to pitch their unified will against. And if they are taureans, that will is herculean.

My finances were taken over and a part of my income disappeared every month into some mysterious black hole and I was taught that I could not only survive but could live very well with a little less in my purse.

And so plane tickets and private villas with beautiful swimming pools all to ourselves seemed to have got miraculously booked. (Only later did I learn of the hours that my daughters had spent every night on the internet meticulously planning, what they wanted to be, a perfect holiday).

And then two days before we could leave, I injured my leg. A severe hamstring injury is what the doctor said. I looked at him aghast. Somewhere through my haze of pain, as I lay on that hospital bed, I managed to ask, “But can I go to Bali? I am leaving the day after tomorrow.”

“Two days of bed rest. Take your meds. And use a wheel chair for the trip. Don’t exert and I don’t see why you shouldn’t go.”

Until that moment, I hadn’t realised how much I was really looking forward to the trip. It was just going to be the six of us. My sister in law, her son and his partner, my daughters and me. All the people that I love. So why had I been grumbling so much about it? Why had I been acting like such a whiny kid about the whole holiday? Why could I not accept and appreciate the wonderful job my kids were doing in organising the entire trip?

Why could I not see what my kids could see? That I was burnt out and needed a break. That I needed to stop being the person who had to be responsible for everything and everyone and that it was okay to let others take charge once in a while. It was okay to let others take care of me.

I had had to take the responsibility for everything for so long, ever since my husband and I had separated and then more so after he died. I had got so used to being the one in charge that I didn’t know how not to be. I realised that I actually felt scared if someone one else took care of me. I was scared to depend on someone else to make decisions for me.  But holding the reins of my life so tightly was causing me to fray and tear and maybe that wheelchair was needed to let me know that sometimes it is okay to sit and let someone push you around. Especially when it is done with so much love.