May 16, 2009

I was walking across terminal four of JFK waiting at the arrivals lounge for my mom. An old Russian man (I think he was Russian, could have been from anyplace in central Europe really) came up to me brandishing a dollar and asked me in broken English if I had change. I didn't, and I told him so, and prepared to walk off but I couldn't help but sympathize with the look of utter confusion on his face. I asked him if he needed help, and he said he needed to make a phone call. I once again almost apologized for not having any change and walked off, except something stopped me and I offered my cell phone to make a call for whoever he was waiting for. He thanked me profusely, gave me a local number and held a short one minute conversation with someone on the other line in rapid language I couldn't understand. As he spoke I noticed that his age-wrinkled hand shook as he held the phone up to his ear, another testament to his age. He quickly finished his conversation and handed me back my phone with and thanked me again with a look of utter relief on his face. I told him he was very welcome, wished him a good day and moved on.

Helping out an old man in need was such a little thing, I should not have had to think three times before offering him my cell phone. I should not have had to deal with the niggling fear of who he may be, who he may be calling, what he may be saying. Is he a terrorist? Will somebody be listening in to this conversation? Will I be hauled off to Gauntanamo for suspected collaboration?

And the realization of exactly how low humanity has fallen struck me just then. The extent to which we have entrangled ourselves in a web of mutual mistrust and hatred. And the fact that most of what we do is out of self-preservation, and the fact that in order to preserve our selves we feel the need to victimize others is utterly pathetic in itself. It's a cruel world we live in, lovelies, and made crueller still by people like me who think three times before offering a single gesture of kindness. We should all be ashamed of ourselves. And of the world we live in today. 

5 comments:

OnLY OnE..! said...

Not directly really related to this post, but I remember one time in Singapore my battery ran out when I was on the MRT, and it was midnight or relatively late and I desperately needed to call my friends to know where it was that I was supposed to meet them. I had no idea what stop to even stop at and all those small details.

I asked 5 people if I could borrow their phone. They all refused. It came as a big shock.

At least you did end up offering the phone, give yourself a pat for that! :)

Marina said...

Oh, SO true. That day, this friend of mine had to deny this crying guy a ride to some spot, and he felt like shit later, but the guy was carrying a big black bag and my friend had alarm bells ringing in his head like crazy.
But I'd disagree with one thing. It wasn't cruel of you and no, no one should be ashamed of themselves except the people who've made circumstances such that normal people hesitate before random kindness. Self-preservation is the oldest and most basic human instinct, nothing anyone should have to feel guilty for; it's necessary for survival, and the only people ashamed should be those who've brought humanity down to nothing but that.

Maryam said...

The difference Xeb, between cruelty and you, is that you did help in the end. Cruel people would never have done so. I think its the end result that matters sometimes, not how you work towards it.

Deepak Iyer said...

Quite agree with Maryam.
What matters is the end, not how you get there.

I am sure you wouldn't think as much the next time.

Of course, your thinking before helping is as much as a reflection of society as it is of you.

Ali said...

i beg to differ, the end doesnot necessarily justify the means!!!