I was staying in Mumbai in a shared apartment when this incident happened.
Usually, when we are alone, we always try to find a routine so that the time flies faster. And that’s what I did. For me, the evening routine was to go for a walk near Marine drive.
I used to stay in South Bombay and Marine drive was just 10 minute walk away. Every evening, I would walk through the street market area and reach to Marine Drive for a blissful evening walk. Personally, I loved walking as it gave me time to think of the ongoing issues as well as time to dwell into some deep insightful thoughts. This incident happened on one Saturday evening.
It was just like every other evening (or that’s what I thought). I was walking down through the streets. Mumbai streets are always crowded with pedestrians and road-side vendors. There were lots of voices floating in air from every side that to save myself from this cacophony, I connected my headphones. That was what I would do every day. But somehow today, the headphones weren’t connecting and I was stuck into sorting that issue out while walking through those streets.
And, all of a sudden, I sensed someone calling for me. I stopped walking and turned back to see an old woman standing with a torn luggage bag and a stick. She looked at me and said: “Son, can you help me? My son dropped me off here saying that he had some work and he is coming back in 15 minutes to pick me up. But it has already been three hours and he hasn’t come back. Son, I am worried that he is not going to return. And I don’t know anyone around here. I stay in a small village on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra. I don’t have a single penny with me now. Son, I am of the age of your mom. Please have some mercy and help me with three hundred rupees so that I can catch a bus to my village.“
Having lived in Mumbai for a few months, I was aware of such scams happening where people try to take money from you by using sympathy as a tool. And I, being “an educated person”, was not going to get into this trap. So I replied: “Aunty, I have no money on me. If I had, I would have given to you.”
That was a typical reply that everyone would give. And that was what I did. And then I started walking ahead. But somehow, it was not feeling right.
What if that woman was not lying? What if she was genuinely in need of money to get back home? What would happen if nobody helped her and she was stuck here? Looking at her, I could sense that she had not eaten anything since the morning. Three hundred rupees was not a huge money. Shouldn’t I help her? Wasn’t that the right thing to do?
While thinking all these, I had already sprinted some blocks away. But these thoughts were not disappearing. And the headphones not working was an added burden on me. In frustration, I disconnected the headphones and removed them from my head. When I was holding those in my hands, I thought: I spent five thousand rupees to get these headphones. Can’t I just give a few hundred rupees to that woman! Even if it was a scam, I was at least doing the right thing.
So, I decided to walk back to where she was standing. When I reached to the spot, I was not able to find that woman. But her luggage was still there. So I knew that she was somewhere around. I started looking everywhere for her. She must have had gone somewhere around asking other people for money. I asked a few people around and they told that the woman was in tears as nobody was helping. They directed me towards the street that she went.
30 minutes passed. But I still was not able to find her. Her bag was still there. Then where did she go? I hope she was allright. I kept looking for her for fifteen more minutes and then finally, I gave up.
The mood for the walk had also died. And I decided to walk back to my home. Those steps honestly felt so hard walking back. The tiredness felt like I had run a marathon. I thought: “I wish I had not doubted that woman. I wish that I had listened to her and helped her out. I wish that my mind was not corrupted by some goons that made me not believe the people in need. I wish the bad deeds around the area had no such impact on me and I would have pushed myself to do a small act of humanity.”
That day, I learned three important things.
 The world around us is not painted in just black and white. The world is painted in infinite shades of grey.
 No matter how educated you become, you are not supposed to do cost-benefit analysis when it comes to help people in need.
 You will NOT always get a second chance to do a good deed. To do the right thing. So, whenever the Universe asks for your hand, give it right away.Arjuna@War
Till next time, ciao!
– Arjuna@War (Parth Shah)