Spare a thought - Ramadan Mubarak
There was a YouTube link sent by Senior waiting for me when I got home yesterday. Those reading me for the first time, please note that in my house, Senior implies the husband, and Junior, the son. You will find the video just below, and if you are in a rush, as we all seem to be, just watch from 1:10 onwards.
I watched the video a couple of times and it brought home to me how we keep forgetting to give. Not necessarily because we are bad people who lack compassion, but because we have so many things going on in our own lives that we forget to take a breath and check on someone else. I also imagine the ad resonated so much with me because as a long-term resident of the Middle East, I’ve seen a lot of people far away from home who are too busy eking out a living to truly live their lives.
People give to charities and charitable causes all the time, but the type of kindness I’m talking about is not nameless or faceless. This is about people around us whom we forget to be kind to when they cross our paths. It’s not just about giving money; it could be something as simple as lending someone a sympathetic ear.
I was in MBD yesterday for some work, and just as I was about to enter an office building, an elderly man, dressed in clean and carefully laundered clothes that had definitely seen better times, stopped me to ask if I could help him. He had been asked to come by the office of an acquaintance from his town back in India but he couldn’t find it. I didn’t know the company and neither did anyone around. I asked him if he had a number to call and he didn’t. Just the first name of his contact and his company name.
After we stopped yet another passerby for help without success, this man turned to me and simply stated that he was very tired and hot, and didn’t know what he would do if he couldn’t find his friend. The look on his face spoke volumes. My phone rang at that moment and I moved away to take the call, which must have lasted for a couple of minutes at the most. By the time I turned back, he was gone. I was left feeling incredibly guilty for the rest of the day, not just because I hadn’t done enough to help this man, but also because I had wondered, just for a moment, whether I was being set up.
When we live with our families, or are able to go see them whenever we want, it doesn’t always cross our minds that there are others around us who get to see their families once every two years. The gardener, who tends to all the public areas where I live and is the reason behind the fact that I have spinach, coriander, chillis and tomatoes flourishing in my tiny kitchen garden, is one such person.
Babu is the grand old man of this place – I thought he was a fit 70 when I first saw him ten years ago and he still looks exactly the same. He works all day in the sun through the year, always ready to give advice on anything plant-related, but a genial smile or a wave is never in short supply. He once laughed and told me about how he likes to befriend every cook he comes across because he can't cook a meal to save his life. He wasn't complaining - for all I know, everyone in his family is a bad cook - but for some reason, it struck a chord with me and made me think about how this man had spent a better part of his life a million miles away from home with no family to rely on.
We often seem to need a reason – an occasion of some sort - to do things for others and it’s easier to be especially nice for a day here and there. If we need a reason right now to be kinder to people around us, I can’t think of anything better than Ramadan. Let the lady who seems to be in such a hurry cut in ahead of you in the supermarket queue; let someone join the traffic without gnashing your teeth; smile and say a big thank you to the guy at the McDonald’s drive-in window and most importantly, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t.