We are all in a frenzy. Stories from our parents of trust and security seem to come from a land of fairy tales. Much like Aladdin, the Genie and Princess Jasmine, it seems the honest shopkeeper who would return the money if you miscounted and the by stander who would willingly keep an eye on your stuff while you took your child to the washroom exist as figments of imagination created only to entertain. We can all very easily recall the shopkeeper trying to cheat us out of money, the bystander waiting for our attention to divert before doing away with some object from our belonging…the list, unfortunately continues. Most times, this is not even ,mal intended towards you, it is plain self preservation and survival in this frenzy we are all in. Push, shove, elbow out to get ahead or be prepared to get pushed, shoved and elbowed out–survival of the fittest. Nowhere does one see, more clearly, the manifestation of these attitudes than at the airport. God forbid you do not wear closed shoes to the airport, your ankles would be hit by a cart or two, you should also be prepared to get more than a push, shove and elbow and if you are a woman you will be expected to tolerate men hogging even the queues meant for you.
So when I came back from a short official trip abroad, it was no surprise to observe the same routines. I stood in the passport control line as a gentleman in uniform conveniently went to the counter to get stamped a stack of passports of those more equal than the rest. I knew my protests will fall on deaf ears, as usual–incorrigible as I am, I protested still. Queue jumps, trolley snatching, racing to the conveyor belt and the next step being hounded by the cab drivers– I had resolved to take the radio cab. It was hot and what’s more how can I trust an ‘ordinary’ taxi wallah. So as the taxi wallahs approached, I just shook my head to ward them off-yes, ward them off, like flies. One persisted and somehow, I felt bad at not being able to contribute a poor man to earn an honest living. So there, magnaminously, I took the ‘ordinary’ yellow cab instead of the presumably safe, comfortable and air conditioned radio cab.
I have to admit that upon approaching the cab that I groaned at the realisation that its a hatchback, my suitcase would have to fit on the seat beside me. Saved by the hatchback! the suitcase lying on the passenger seat was not mine, there had been a mix up!!!! The suitcase was dragged out and as I gathered my laptop case and the duty free shopping bag, the cabbie told me me ‘Leave it here, it is safe’. Not wanting to offend yet unwilling to trust him I muttered ‘ But the windows of your cab are open, so someone else might take it’. He agrees as he eagerly takes all the stuff carrying it for me back to the terminal building.
As we attempt to enter the terminal building,we are told the suitcase will have to be scanned before allowed in. Fair enough, only the scanning is done on the other side of the building. Still willing to help but aware of my mistrust, the cabbyy gingerly asks if he can get the scanning done and at this point he offers to give me his identify card and airport pass. No idea as to what use they would be in event of him not returning with my some of my earthly belongings, I am actually for the first time since my interaction embarrassed that while he is the one who is helping me, the onus of him being worthy of my trust to help me also lies on him. Out of sheer embarrassment of being more worried about my few material things than the a human being’s dignity, I agree.
He gets the bag stamped OK by security, I take it in. He now has my laptop and the shopping bag and he waits outside for me to get free even after I tell him this could take a while and he can get other fares. Sure, it takes a while and then some but he is standing there with the stuff which by now seems ridiculous to have been worried about. Finally, I leave the airport in the yellow cab, with my own bag beside me. As we reach my house and I try paying him he refuses and tells me that the respect he gained by being trusted is enough. He was saying very nice and kind things, in my mnd I was hearing ‘Thanks for accepting me as an honest man making an honest living instead of the thug that I always am of whom tourists and local travelers , especially female travellers should always be aware of. You should always trust a company and not a human being because a company has systems and structures giving you the feeling of being safe. A human being on the other hand….’
The point here is not that all cabbies are nice guardian angels-sure there are those who have found space in the newspapers for being thugs. The point is, we as a people have stopped believing in human goodness within our society. For us, it is easy to criticise, it is non existent to appreciate our own people, except in those nostalgic fairy tales of our parents. Yet, time and again, you, I and all of us come across these daily examples of human goodness which we just do not acknowledge, let alone celebrate!