Yesterday, I ran into Shraddha. I hadn’t met her before, didn’t know her; she was a stranger. Until, comfortably sitting in a typically crowded Mumbai local, something made her concerned about me, so much so that she offered me her seat and willingly sank into the frustrated crowd. It is only upon meeting her did I realize that I had lost her. I had lost Shraddha. One might ask who Shraddha is? And why does it matter that I lost her if she was a stranger in the first place. Shraddha, in Sanskrit, means Faith. But in Sri Aurobindo’s words, “This Shraddha – the English word Faith is inadequate to express it – is in reality an influence from the supreme Spirit and its light a message from our supramental being which is calling the lower nature to rise out of its petty present to a great self-becoming and self-exceeding.” And this light, she found me. She, in her literal physical presence. Her face plain, simple and pretty. Her eyes, although tired but observing, searching for those who have gotten lost while searching for her. Her thin, straight, pale brown hair readily tied into a bun. Carrying a bag full of reliability upon her. Voice full of energy and words full of optimism. And her speech…, her speech confident but kind, and limited initially, as if testing the willingness of those around her to believe in her, gradually turning into a wave of inspiring and encouraging music.
“Are you fine?”, she asked me with an inspecting look. I was instantly surprised at her concern and could only say yes. “Are you alright? Do you want to sit?” I shared the little bit that I was suffering from. She immediately insisted that I take her place as she had to get down on the next station. More than how helpful she was after my telling her, for which I still can’t be thankful enough, it was her first initiative that touched me. To find someone kind and helping in Mumbai, or India for that matter, isn’t surprising. And we all at some point find kindness around us. And yet what touched my heart about this incident was that, while the race for boarding a Mumbai local knows no kindness, a stranger compelled me to think otherwise. Yes, Mumbai local is loaded with human interest stories and this might be one of them, but everything’s fair to the commuters boarding and deboarding a Mumbai local, war too!
Gradually, we started conversing. While I couldn’t find enough words to thank her, she narrated her story to me. An architectural engineer by profession, illness came to her too, like spilled ink on a pure white paper which had made her empathetic. Kidney stone and the suffering that came with it, as she puts it, compelled her to become positive, kind and vibrant. These words from her reminded me of an impeccable quote by Lionel (Bob Hopkins) from the movie Maid in Manhattan which goes, “Sometimes we are forced in directions that we ought to have found for ourselves.” Her story was an example of this quote put in practice. Kidney stone had limited her diet and the number of medicines weren’t countable anymore. But, eventually, she was led to practice Vipassana Meditation and Ayurveda that allowed her to eat her favorite fruits which she otherwise couldn’t. “Now every morning when I wake up and relish that piece of fruit, I feel so grateful to God for having took me through the bad times which eventually led me to the good ones.” More than the words, what touched my heart and of those around me, was the energy with which she spoke. To define her energy, I’d say that she spilled her heart out and meant every word she said.
In a matter of seconds, every passenger’s faith was restored again; restored in goodness, kindness and optimism. The entire coach listened to her words keenly, words which worked like magic and transformed their hearts! As soon as she stepped down at the station, she left behind a soothing silence. Those violent and angry pushes turned into kind verbal requests for space, and faces were lost in wonder. To meet a kind stranger out of the blue, caring for you, is an unforgettable experience; and though she spoke with me, they all shared this experience.
Another lady, who had been with me in the compartment all this while, got down on at the same station that I did and asked me about the next scheduled train. Minutes before we parted, she said, “Wasn’t she so vibrant? So full of life? You don’t meet people as good as her often unless you are so yourself; we probably are good people then.”
We probably are.