Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Key to Million Smiles

Many a times all it takes is a slight shift in perspective to follow through with our intentions and fulfill desires. Otherwise the robotic everyday life and its whirlpool of regular chores never ceases to consume us every moment.

One intention we all harbor is 'Making a Difference or Touching Lives' but unable to act due to perceived lack of time. This planet, the world, poverty, the underprivileged, the elderly and the homeless cross our mind frequently. We do grab sporadic opportunities to contribute our bit but the results are a mere fraction of our true potential. Besides, it isn't sustainable unless we dive in leaving everything aside. 

So, how do we maximize and sustain the impact we so dearly intend? The answer again lies in our perspective. We must 'tweak' it to do two things:

(i) Dissociate 'Make a Difference or Touching Lives' from 'People-in-Distress'
(ii) Spread awareness and inspire others to help sustain the change. This topic is for next post.

i. Change the way we look at 'Make a Difference' 
If we analyze aforesaid thoughts crossing our mind, and many more like them, they have a pattern. They mostly relate to problems, unfortunate people, their misery and even helplessness. But is touching lives just about helping people-in-distress? We can and must do it in everyday life with ORDINARY people too - family, friends, relatives, colleagues and customers. It is with them we spend most of our life and hence can make the biggest difference. 

How we approach and engage ourselves in everything we do creates profound impact on the world around and in us. At the end, how well we have lived our lives will also be defined by this simple fact. Lack of time is not the constraint, lack of perspective and attitude is.

The short true story here is all about how 'Perspective and Attitude' help touch countless lives. Sometimes we won't even realize the extent of its impact. 

Tale of Young Ordinary Lives
In the monsoon of 1992, I, among a flock of over 300 youngsters, had landed on the outskirts of a small town in Southern India to earn our Engineering degrees!! Travelling 1000s of miles away from home, many of us had left the security of family for the first time in our lives.

In last two decades, whenever I have dusted that 4 year-window for a quick peek, a person has always smiled past it vividly reminding me of his impact in my life, and probably in lives of thousands others!! 

The Acknowledgement
It was my second week in college. Ragging had already crushed our excitement. With fear in the heart, weary eyes, disturbed mind and occasionally red cheeks, hell couldn't be worse than this, so I thought. One afternoon, as I was leaping up the curved stairway of our hostel floors, there he was, dressed in khaki uniform, descending one step at a time. Wearing plastic 'rain-shoes', black-framed (or brown?) glasses and no cap, he was in his 50s. Oozing incredible calmness, his wrinkled eyes and soft smile seemed to acknowledge the storm in my world. 

"Any letter for me, room 63?", I asked hesitantly. Pausing in his steps, he dug into a hand-held bundle and took a while before signalling with a polite shake of the head. "Can you check the bag?," I pointed to the one suspended around his shoulder. "No, it isn't there either", was the quick response before his voice was buried in the cacophony of others who, like me, had surrounded him by then. Until that moment, I had never realized the value of a postman. 

A Glimmer of Hope(s)
In the following years, the way he would interact and serve us, his customers, it seemed as if this was the only thing he ever wanted to do. He merrily walked the campus with our load and would often be stopped for inquiries about mail. I never saw him declining such ad-hoc requests. In those early 90s, when even land-lines, let alone mobiles, were true luxury in small towns, he was our hope. And he never let it dim by happily flipping the bundled-letters for us, even if we had received one the day before. 

Somewhere along our journey, we voluntarily started 'tipping' him upon receiving a check or money-order. If we collected it from post office after a missed delivery, we would leave the tip for him with his colleagues.

He seemed to understand and realize what we all longed for. It wasn't a piece of hand-written paper but a subtle assurance that, yes, it would arrive one day. And that he communicated splendidly without words - a smile followed by his polite shake of the head. Indeed a man of few words!! He was living up to his job - Deliver Letters - in a way that would make thousands like me cherish his memories for rest of their lives. 

The Last Day
The whole college knew about it. He arrived in same slow steady steps, smile and happiness of contentment. This time, however, we were shaking hands with him, for the the first and last time ever. There wasn't even a hint of today being his last day. Few good Samaritans ran collection-campaign, a gesture of our collective THANK YOU.

Another postman replaced him for remaining few months (or an year?). He too lived up to his job description - Deliver Letters. I have no memories of him. None whatsoever.

Knock at the Door
I had graduated now and was based in Mumbai with already an year into my job. Hopping through TV channels on a hot Saturday afternoon, the noise and my frustration was interrupted by shrillness of the bell. Dragging myself to the door, I opened it to receive someone whom I had never seen all year round. 

"I am your postman, Diwali Baksheesh please". 
Welcome to Mumbai, and this World!! This is how we live!!

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