Hari Shanker R

Hari Shanker R

A Happiness Engineer at Automattic.

Good Samaritan

They say good samaritans are a dying breed. At least, you don’t see them on the road every other day. Maybe, it’s a necessary-evil, courtesy: Kalyug. Or, the society has become so selfish that we don’t really give a damn about the world around us. Even as millions die of hunger, we live luxurious lives, unmindful of the harsh realities around us.

We are all hypocrites. Even good comes with a shade of grey. ‘Purity’ is euphemism. Or rather, thus spake pessimists.

I beg to differ.

Dude, Good Samaritans are alive. And kicking.

Be a good samaritan

Now, if you’ll allow me to elaborate…

About twenty hours ago, we were driving through the State Highway one, after one of our periodic native place trips. I was behind the wheel. Since dad was on a nap (read: no more backseat driving!) I let the speedometer hover around the 100’s. On a smooth road, high speed driving is bliss.

Until a nasty pothole wakes you up from the reverie.

Dad woke up too.

A shower of unparliamentary words followed. I promptly remembered to filter my ‘infant ears’ from all the verbal filth that was hurled at me. In the process, I missed out on the ‘advice’ he offered. But what the hell, I never pay heed to advice either. Rules are meant to be broken and advice has a permanent seat in my mind’s trashcan.

Anyway, the backseat driving resumed and I drove on, grumbling.

Fifteen minutes later, I felt something amiss. A knocking sound emanated from the rear of our Indigo. There was a periodic jolt too. Even my mom, who was sleeping to ward herself off all the abuse, woke up with a start.

Something was wrong with our car.

I didn’t need dad’s (unparliamentary) instructions to pull over. I alighted and checked the rear. The right-rear tire of our car lay deflated, like a wilted flower – or a shot-down balloon.

Dad glowered at me. It was the pothole, which was a bit too steep with sharp edges. It did hurt that I was driving at an average speed of 100 kmph, while the mishap occurred. Apparently, the sharp edges of the pothole wedged into tire, causing a deep gash.

Despite being an atheist, my dad believes in karma. “What you reap, is what you sow,” he said. And that was a hat-tip in management lingo. I had to undo the damage I did.

I had to replace the flat tire myself.

Now, I have a serious problem. Whenever someone mentions a task to be handled, I volunteer with gusto, without realizing what it takes to get the job done. I realize my folly only half-way through the task. By then, the damage would’ve been done. Precisely what happened in this case.

I’ve seen enough flat tires and I’ve even helped one of my uncles out to repair a flat.

I took the job with open arms.

I opened the rear-boot to fish out the ‘stepney’ (oh btw, this word is an Indian English gem – don’t use it outta the country, mind you). To my chagrin, the rear boot was stuffed with an array of bananas and other agricultural produce. (Now you know why make frequent trips to our native) I shot a pleading glance at dad who was calmly puffing away his second cigarette, and talking on the phone. Mom stood a neat distance away, glancing through the ‘vanitha’.

Cursing my luck, I started off, lifting bananas bunch-by-bunch.

“Enthengilum sahaayam veno?” (Do you want any help)

I was taken aback by the sudden query in a voice unfamiliar. I made an about-turn to see a dark old man, clad in a white shirt and dhothi glancing partly at me and partly at the flat tire. I was reminded of an old poem – ‘Two tramps in mud time‘. This guy reminded me of the tramp. Trying to act like the narrator of the poem, I politely nodded,

“Kuzhappamilla. Njaan cheytholaam.” (Na, it’s okay. Thank you.)

“Nannaayittu keeriyittundallo.” (It looks like a bad one)

Is he deaf? I thought I made myself clear – I didn’t need help. Ego took the better of me.

“Athe. Chettan mechanic aano?” (Yes. Are you a mechanic?)

“Alla. Aa stepney edukkumbo sookshichu edukkane…” (Nope, but do handle the stepney carefully)

Before I knew it, he volunteered himself, lifting bananas from the boot and placing them towards the side, so as to get the stepney. My ego died, and I was certainly not complaining. 🙂

Dad noticed the guy, and came over to see what’s happenning.

Meanwhile, both of us lifted the stepney tire and placed it sideways. Dad fished the ‘jacky’ and screwdriver from a recess hidden in the boot. I removed my watch, un-tucked my shirt and switched myself to ‘Mechanic mode’ (with due apologies to ‘Enthiran‘).

Our visiting ‘mechanic’ knew his ‘mechanics’. He helped me place the ‘jacky’ underneath the car,

“Jacky alpam side ilottu matti vaykku – illengil silencer il mutti balance thetti veezhum.” (Place the jacky carefully lest it slip and hit the silencer. The car may fall down, losing balance.)

With his instructions, I lifted the jacky. Meanwhile, our man fetched a piece of rope from somewhere and removed the wheelcap of the flat tire. The tire screws were super-tight. With some effort from our part, the screws came off and we gingerly removed the tire. The gash was deep. Dad glowered at me again.

“Ithu nannaakkaan ichiri paadu pedum.” (Repairing this is gonna cost me a lot)

Ignoring dad’s dig, I continued work, fixing the stepney in place. The visitor was prompt in helping me out:

“Athra cash onnum aavilla saare… Koodi poyaal oru noottambathu roopa.” (It won’t cost a lot, sir. 150 rupees, max).

Finally, after 20 minutes of arduous labor, the tire was back in place. I unscrewed the jacky and placed the flat tire onto the rear-boot. We reloaded the luggage later on. Noticing that my hands were all dirty, the man took me to a nearby construction site where we found some water and washed our hands.

We returned to the car. I couldn’t help but smile – I would have had a tough time, had it not been for this man. He was just a passer-by and had no obligation to help us out. Heck, he didn’t even know who we were – we were strangers to him! Yet, he found time for us, and did his best to help us out – and he did a good job too! Especially with a novice like me ‘at the helm’. I turned around, to thank the man with all my heart.

He was not there.

We looked all around, but he went missing. It was as if he had vanished into thin air – he left without a good bye.

The three of us were let-down.

“Sho. Ayalkku enthengilum kodukkanamaayirunnu,” (We should have given him something) said Dad.

“Ayaalude peru polum chodichilla. Enthu nalla manushyana,” (We didn’t even ask his name. What a nice person), Mom too was disappointed.

Overcome with gratitude and disappointment, I just could not speak.

The nameless man did a thankless job. He got nothing – he did not ask for it. He soiled his squeaky-white shirt and dhothi for three random strangers who were stranded by a flat tire. He was certainly not the healthiest of men; yet he strained himself to help us out.

Would you do the same, if you were in the old man’s shoes (He was barefoot, btw)?

We all live in our little cocoons, enjoying the little pleasures of life. Maybe we should learn something from the nameless man – a true-blue ‘Good Samaritan’. Reaching out to someone in need could be a thankless job. God almighty might not bless you with the luxuries of life, by doing so. Sometimes, you might not even get a ‘thank you’ in return. But a small step goes a long way.

And the satisfaction it brings in, quoting the MasterCard ad, “is priceless.”

Photo Credits:  Fr. Stephen MSC

© 2017, Hari Shanker R. Some Rights Reserved.
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