Invoking our goodness

Do we need a natural disaster like the Chennai floods to awaken the inner good in us?

We are waiting in our car at a traffic signal when we notice a couple of women crossing the road in front of us. An older woman walks slowly assisted by a young girl in jeans. The traffic light changes to green and the two women look at our car with some trepidation. My husband in the driver’s seat nods at the two ladies who continue walking. They give us a grateful smile and take a few steps forward.

Out of the blue, an auto driver from our right side nearly knocks the older woman down as he races ahead. If not for her companion’s quick reflexes the woman would been seriously injured. She grimaces and hobbles her way to the footpath.

“Appa, you need to start the car!” my daughter calls out from the back seat. She notices how perturbed my husband looks and is bothered by the incessant honking behind us.

There’s complete silence in the car as my husband drives home. “Can we stop at the post office on our way?” my daughter asks hesitantly. Of late she had got into the habit of writing letters to relatives and friends and visiting the post office had become a regular feature. My husband gives her an indulgent smile and agrees.

When we reach the post office, we notice a long queue in front of the counter. My daughter gets in line while we watch from the sidelines. A few minutes later, I notice that any semblance of a queue disappears as people wheedle their way ahead trying to cut in. The defiant ones do not make eye contact as they ride roughshod over the others.

My daughter’s woebegone face cuts my husband to the quick. I am paralysed with fear that he will lose his temper and furtively look around the room hoping not to see any familiar faces. Luckily he talks to the others calmly and ensures the formation of a clear line. There are a lot of sheepish faces around when we leave the post office later. “All those years of student politicking during my college days is paying off!” my husband remarks with a flounce in his step.

As we approach our apartment complex, we see some of the residents arguing in raised voices. “My mother was walking near the play area when the cricket ball hit her on the head. These boys have no regard for people who are walking in the complex.”

The agitated speaker is ready to burst a blood vessel when another man shouts at him. “My son can play with his friends wherever he wants to. This is common property!” The tenor of the vocabulary degenerates steadily and I slink away, dragging my husband forcefully. My daughter is stumped by the commotion.

I am drained on all counts by the time I reach home with my family. Letting people cross the road or waiting patiently for our turn in a queue or playing in a safe zone is about being empathetic towards others. Do we really need a natural disaster like the Chennai floods to awaken the inner good in us?

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