Help thy neighbor


We were standing at the check out line when I saw Sean’s subtle body movement in front of me and I knew he is getting ready to help someone. I wrote in one of my blogs that Sean is a giver. His love pours over not only his family but all around him – including perfect strangers. Ahead of us in the check out line was a very elderly woman with a full cart of groceries. Among the groceries were two big bags of bird feed. As the woman slowly put her items up on the counter for the clerk to check out, I could see Sean eyeing the bags of bird feed and I detected the familiar twitch in his body. That is when I knew he is going to leap – to help. And I opened my mouth to stop him. Yes, I tried to stop my husband from helping a frail, elderly woman from lifting heavy bags of bird feed on the check out counter. You read that right. Why? Because we are living through a pandemic. I do not know how people would react if you randomly touch their stuff at this time. But before I could pull at his sleeve, he lifted the bags on to the counter for her. I shook my head. The woman and the check out clerk thanked him and the woman asked if he could accompany her to unload her car at her house – in jest.

I heaved a sigh of relief that no one got upset at Sean touching someone’s grocery. It took a long time for the woman to finish since her hands shook as she slowly wrote her check to pay. The employee helping her was kind and wonderful. Although there was a long line forming behind us, nobody showed impatience. My husband struck again. He zipped around the woman, went to the end of the check out counter and hauled the 2 heavy bags of bird feed onto the woman’s cart. I was wildly gesticulating at this point to stop touching other people’s stuff. The woman thanked him profusely and he offered to take the cart to her car and put the bags in it. She said she could do it and appreciated his offer and help.

When he came back to me I said I truly appreciate how he helps everyone but can he not touch other people’s stuff randomly please since we are in a pandemic? He smiled and said he supposedly had asked the woman’s permission before touching her groceries. I had missed that conversation.

I have known Sean for 26 years now and I have seen him going out of his way to help strangers who cross his path. The help in small scale could be getting luggage down from overhead locker for someone, entertaining babies so harried parents could get some reprieve on a long plane ride, giving up his seat to others in need including coveted aisle seat in airplanes (who does that?) carrying groceries, and in bigger scale – staying with a young mother with an infant in Colombo airport when militants tried to bomb the airport, lying on the ground with the baby between them as bullets passed over them and then accompanying her home safely, holding up a half upturned car (along with a few others) with the driver in it till rescue came. There are zillion instances, big and small, of how Sean helps. And I am in awe of how much he gives. Truly. However, it has fallen upon me to somewhat keep him under control during pandemic. His first instinct is to pick up a fallen glove on the road and shout after the person who he thinks has dropped the glove. I am the one who swoops down to stop him from touching the glove, or litter, which he picks up regularly to throw in a trash can. “DON’T touch!!! Pandemic!” I have been shouting regularly these days.

This is an ode to my husband. A truly good man. And although there are times when he drives me up the wall, I consider myself blessed to spend my life with him. I am a better person because of him. The world is a better place because he is in it. And today is his birthday.

‘Let’s do something for the Underprivileged’


Parents cease to be infallible to children once they cross the magic years of childhood and enter the murky waters of preteen. It is a confusing age, an age where the boundaries that parents set seem cruel, meaningless and restraining. Parents become the beloved jailers, loved in many ways but hated in some. I felt the same way towards mine while growing up yet at some level, I always knew two well-meaning, kind-hearted people who gave birth to me have also bequeathed me their legacy – kindness.

As a child, I have seen my father spend hours next to his aging, bed ridden relative by marriage, listening to his tales of yester year glories. His gift to the lonely old man was a patient ear and his time. He was, and still is, the hero and savior to all stray dogs and cats in our neighborhood. He instilled in me the life long love for animals. My mother, not only indulged me in all kinds of madness with animals, which included, but wasn’t limited to assisting my cats birth their kittens on my bed and saving and nurturing countless dogs and cats during my entire childhood. She turned a blind eye as I donated generous portions of family rations to alm seekers who knocked on our door. Well, she couldn’t have stopped me anyway. I still remember witnessing the tears in the eyes of our domestic help as she took off her gold earrings and gave them to her for her daughter’s marriage.

After I grew and moved away, my parents found a sudden void in their lives. With me gone, they suddenly did not know what to do. Their lives revolved around our visits to them and vice versa. Then came the grandchildren. Their joy multiplied, but when it was time for us to part, so did loneliness. They waited for phone calls, visits. Life became a long wait.

My father, possessing an inquisitive mind, started tinkering with my old computer. He taught himself enough to land in his first social networking site – Orkut. After a first few shaky steps, he discovered a different world in there – one of online friendship. He dragged my reluctant mother into this and an addiction was formed. My mother came into social networking kicking and screaming, but she was fascinated by the expansiveness of the world it presented. The barriers of sex, age, caste, creed fell away. Her gregarious, jovial and spirited self was just perfect to attract a large number of online friends. They both started spending hours interacting with individuals they knew through Orkut and Facebook, exchanging ideas, talking about Tagores’ poetry, quotations, songs. Gone were the days of lonely sighs and long waits. Life took on a different meaning.

I was happy at the distraction the social networking site provided since I suffered from the single child guilt. At the same time I was alarmed at this addiction which I feared may take a toll on their health. Well, I was wrong and how!

Hours of chat on Facebook gave birth among some like-minded friends, the desire to do something for those in the lower strata of the society. They talked, discussed, debated, planned for hours and created a community called:

LET’S DO SOMETHING FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEGED

Their ultimate goal is to reach a position where they can help people change their lives. They are not there yet but they have put some precious smiles on some precious faces. They have collected money and given out school supplies to elementary school children in slums of Kolkata, India. They are planning their next project, which is to donate clothes to the needy before the biggest festival of Bengalis – Durga pujo. They have pooled their own resources but they can not help as many people as they want without donations. So they are reaching out to you to help their cause by donating money/ time to help their efforts.

I humbly ask you to please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LetsDoSomethingForTheUnprivileged.

See what they are all about. If you like their initiative, please like their Facebook page to tell your friends about this community. If you are able, please donate money and/or your time. If you are local, feel free to join in their efforts and further their cause in bringing a change. They are a group of well-meaning people but new at this venture. They will certainly benefit from your advice and expertise. I request you to know this community and support their efforts in any way you can.

I am immensely proud of my parents that instead of looking inwards in their twilight years, they finally found the time to do what they wanted to do all their lives (and did in small ways) – give back to the community. I am thankful they found a group of friends who share their zeal to make a difference, no matter, how little. I salute this endeavor and I hope they will continue to grow and become a bigger organization to help more and more people in their community and beyond. I also hope you will join me in giving them the support they need.