Saturday, 15 February 2014

On Human Kindness

On a recent trip to Gujarat, I encountered so much warmth and human kindness, from so many strangers - it was remarkable. Not just in Gujarat- in Pune, in Hyderabad and back in Madras. Usually one small bad experience, an act of rudeness or casual contempt, is all it takes to ruin an otherwise splendid day or experience or conversation. Often I have been the culprit, sometimes the victim. But there were several instances of incredible friendliness, genuine warmth, from total strangers, and more often from friends and new acquaintances. It is one thing to remember fondly, the lovely monuments, sumptuous meals, and gorgeous sunsets and beautiful landscapes, but by far better to sincerely feel gratitude, and express it. I wish I could repay the kindnesses, the service, the smiles, even the grouchy ungracious favours – I got a train ticket printed for free by a travel agent in Bhuj when I was looking for a browsing center, who then waved away my offer of money : have you ever been “blessed” by a surly favour?

Why does an injustice rankle long after the glow of kindness fades? Why is it so much easier to speak a harsh word than hold one’s tongue, or bear for a moment a minor nuisance, than react with anger or disdain, and just make the whole thing worse? Perhaps it is just me; I hope so.

The kindness of strangers and the decency of friends also seems starkly to contrast with viciousness of public discourse, and the venom with which people treat someone they profess to love, or are expected to love. “When it is a deep, dark November in your soul” wrote Melville in Moby Dick. Why deep dark November in the soul when sunlight bathes your world and warmth caresses your surroundings, I wonder.

And yet…

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