Being Humane

Memory is a weird thing. It seems to make you forget the most important things of life and ensure that you remember the least significant of things that happened around you. I either completely forget the birthdays of friends I have known for a long time or embarrass myself by wishing them a month in advance. The craziest part is I clearly remember the birthdays of some long-lost acquaintances whose faces I can barely recollect. My mother had the habit of keeping things safely, only she forgets where she had kept them. She usually brings the entire house down every time she starts looking for something that she had kept safely.Did I mention that memories are weird? Well, they always take you on a detour and you almost forget what you wanted to say in the first place. I wasn’t planning to talk about my mother. In fact, I wanted to talk about one of my English teachers from school.

I was in class Five. She taught in the school just for that year. I don’t remember a thing of what she taught me except may be the color of the grammar book she used to refer. But I do remember her name, her face and the last conversation she had with us on the last day of that academic year. She said she wanted to talk only to the girls in the class and asked the boys to wait outside the classroom for few minutes. I can’t still figure out why did she want the boys gone, for she wasn’t talking anything offensive and it probably would have done them some good too. She spoke of five important things that girls should always keep in mind. I don’t remember all the five items she wrote on the black board. I just remember one of them – “Never trust a guy except if he is your father or brother”. For reasons that I can’t comprehend, this statement stuck with me forever. I am not sure if I followed her advice, but I recollect the first-time I questioned the rationality behind her statement.

It was my first year in college and he was a guest, invited for a lecture. I do not recall his name or his face. I only recollect that he was a Non- Residential Indian and had a tuft of hair or Shikha as it is called. Again, I don’t remember anything from his lecture except for the part where he spoke about his landlady. In fact, I don’t even remember what was the story with the old lady but he concluded his lecture saying that she inspired him to trust people even though there are enough reasons to not trust a stranger. That closing statement changed the way I saw few things in life. My father is a generous man. I have seen him lent money to strangers. He knew he might never get the money back, yet he would be kind and lent them some. I used to be miffed at this act especially since we didn’t have much to spare. Only after that lecture in college, did I realize what my father was doing. He was being humane by trusting a fellow human.

It is quite amusing that if you are a girl you will always have someone throwing a list of instructions at you, just like those five pointers from my teacher. Those instructions are for your own sake or at least that is what they say. They demand you to be cautious and vouch to keep you safe. So, when cellphones became a part and parcel of life, I was repeatedly warned not to share numbers with strangers. I did follow that for a while like a dutiful student.  However, the lesson from the lecture always had me at conflicts when it came to trusting a stranger. Also, despite being cautious with the phone numbers, I did have my share of anonymous calls, flirtatious messages and every other sort of harassment I was warned about. So, slowly I broke myself off from this pretentious defense system and decided to believe in the goodness of the world. I got ready to trust, completely aware of the knife that was constantly hanging over my head. I prepared myself to deal with every hurdle that might come my way during my mission towards unwavering trust for fellow beings.

It has been almost 15 years since I decided to ‘trust’. Now as I look back, I realize I have done some unbelievably crazy things to stand by my decision. I never thought twice before sharing my number with a stranger or on social media if I was asked for it. I lent a patient ear to a lot of strangers and their stories. I have had some wonderful experiences and human interactions during this journey. However, it also had its own downside. My latest encounter of such sort was when I met a certain guy during a cultural fest.

I happened to be there by chance and I was excited to be there even though I did not understand a word of the language that was being spoken. In my curiosity to know more about it, I struck a conversation with the person seated next to me. He must be in his 50s. He seemed glad to explain it all to me. I spent about ten minutes talking to him regarding the event and then it was time for me to leave. I exchanged numbers with him because he seemed to have more to tell me about the event and he promised he would talk to me about it. Two days later when he called me, he talked about various cultural events and I was glad.  The next day, he called me again. He said he was around my locality and would like to meet if I was available. I was at work and I didn’t meet him that day. The next day again, he was wanting to meet and that got me intrigued. The calls kept coming and some, I missed. One fine day, when I had missed it couple of times, thanks to work, he tried calling from a different number. Now this was a man old enough to be my father and how can I make assumptions of his intentions without knowing for sure. Finally, I agreed to meet him on a weekend at a temple near my place. When I reached there, he wasn’t in the temple. I saw him in the bus stop outside the temple. I walked over to him and then took one of those seats in the shelter at the bus stop and started speaking to him. He asked me if I would prefer to go to a café and then talk. I was still hoping to be proven wrong about my anxieties against him. A couple of minutes later, two of my male friends joined me as we had planned. I watched his face for reactions when my friends arrived. He was still so poised and I could read nothing from his face. The conversation continued and he had nothing new to tell me either. Surprisingly, he was indulging my friends too. Ten minutes later we said good bye and he promised to call me later with some more information. It has been more than a month now. The call never came.

There had also been times when this decision of mine had cost me. I once lent a few hundreds to a lady and her ten-year-old son, who explained to me about how they had lost their way and needed money to go home. I had no means of verifying their story, but I decided to trust and gave them a few hundred so they can get back home. When I mentioned this to a friend, he explained to me how it is possible that I was tricked by a group of cons who employ such tactics to make money. I had thought about it too before giving the money but I chose to trust. I knew that I would be able to live with the fact that I was tricked, if at all I was. But, I wouldn’t be able to rest in peace if her version of the story was true.

Every time I come face to face with something like this, I get carried back to my school’s classroom and then to the college’s lecture hall in fractions of second. I now know that to trust everyone isn’t an easy thing to do and to trust is not everyone’s thing to do. Although I have no explanation as to why I remembered these seemingly insignificant incidents from my  life, I know for sure that these little fragments of thoughts defined the kind of person I wanted to be. Memory, truly, is a weird thing.


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