Monday, December 14, 2009

True Story: A Thank-You Card to Thomas

Wow, it's been 3 months since I posted anything! As always, that isn't my fault - I blame my grueling 1st MBA term for robbing me of all my spare time! I'm serious - when you have watched just one movie (and that too at a Malayalee association movie night) in three months, you definitely know that something has changed. Especially for a person like me who's average movies/week ratio used to be between 2-3, just like a decent Debt/Equity ratio - err, sorry for the lapse, my brain still switches into totally-unrelated-jargon from time to time. The doctor says that's the due to the side-effects of business school, and that victims are usually scarred for life :P

Anyway, now that classes for the first term are over and I've got just two exams left (within 2 days - which makes me wonder again why I'm blogging now), I guess I just decided that I finally have some spare time to write random stuff.

My OB project this term involved doing an organizational-culture analysis about a Toronto-based company. One thing that we found to be really cool was that at every monthly employee lunch, each employee wrote a thank-you card to some other employee, thanking him/her specifically for a deed that didn't go unnoticed during the past month. Therefore, taking a leaf out of their page, I want to give a Thank-You card to Thomas, a random passenger I met on a bus to Mississauga around 2 weeks back.

It happened just over two weeks ago. Me and my roomie Naveen were on our way to a Mumbai-Mallu party at Payal Banquet Hall in Mississauga. We'd decided at around 7pm (rather stupidly) to make the journey ourselves all the way from our University Campus, instead of hitching a ride. I had a rough idea of how to get there via Google Maps, but we'd never traveled to that side of town before (which later made my cousin Anita retort - "I can't believe I'm related to you!!" :P). Anyway, two hours and two subway trains later, we were sitting in a bus that was going in the right direction, the only problem being that we didn't know where to get off and what to do next. It was already past 9.30pm. That was when this scruffy old man got into the bus...

I usually like sitting alone in public buses, so you can imagine my displeasure when this old man, wearing shoddy clothing, came straight up and sat next to me, even where there were empty seats nearby. He looked Indian and he seemed to be around 60 years old. After 2 mins, he asked me the time which I curtly told him. He then asked me where I was from. I said India, and his face changed at once. He seemed so happy to meet someone from his own country! He said his name was Thomas. He asked me what I was doing here to which I said I was here for studies and I'd just landed 3 months ago. He seemed very surprised to know that I was new to the place and told me to be careful traveling at night. He then went on to tell me how he'd come to this place around ten years ago and how he had struggled because didn't have a job for a long time. He told me to be happy about whatever job I got and just do my best without being ashamed about it. Here I was, sitting next to an old shoddy man, feeling very humbled, especially after frequently listening to people say "Oh! You're doing an MBA? You should treat me after getting your first six-figure paycheck!"

He went on to tell us how he'd been content with whatever he had all his life - he was not lying, you could see it in his face. His English was very poor and I had to listen carefully, but by now I felt for him and was listening intently. He told me about his son and daughter; how they'd got married but were now far away, he told me about his wife who passed away suddenly two years ago. I was lost in his story till I remembered that we had to get down somewhere. So I asked him where Payal Banquet Hall (PBH) was. He was very surprised that we didn't know where we were going and seemed genuinely concerned.

What he did next was what blew me away. He first told us that we were still pretty far away and we had to catch another bus if we wanted to get there. He was supposed to get off at the next stop, but he was so anxious to make sure that we poor boys didn't get lost that he didn't get down. Instead, he decided to stay back with us in the bus till we had reached the last stop. He then got down with us and told us that we had to take the #6 bus if we wanted to reach PBH. Even though we pleaded with him that we would be fine, he was adamant that he would wait with us in the dark till the next bus came.

And so after some time, the next bus did come. He entered the bus with us and tried telling the bus driver that we were new here and that to make sure we got down at PBH. Now the driver was a native of this place and he'd obviously had a long day. He couldn't understand what this brown guy was mumbling about and told him to just shut up and get out or pay the ticket and stay in the bus. Thomas' face fell but he still tried to explain, with his limited vocabulary, that we didn't know where to get down and so the driver had to help us. The driver had enough then and started yelling at Thomas to get out cos he didn't make any sense. My heart broke and melted into many tiny small pieces. Here was a guy, who had no reason to be helping us and was getting into trouble just because he was trying to be a good human being. I tried telling Thomas it was okay and we would be fine, mainly because I couldn't stand the sad sight of him retreating out of the bus, yet refusing to go way because he kept trying to make the driver understand what he was saying. Finally though, the driver did get an idea that the Hall was near a church or something. The bus then took off, before I could shout out a 'Thank you!!' to Thomas.

We finally did reach our destination at almost 10.30pm, had a great time gorging ourselves at the Indian buffet, met our friend Neil and made some great new friends including Shiny, Julie, Darly, Simi, Praji, Sanish etc. Got to see my awesome Screwtape friends do their dance number too. We danced, made merry and finally got home past 1.30am when Neil dropped us off in his car.

Therefore I just wanted to say:

"Thank you, Thomas. Thank you for helping us that night, when you had absolutely no reason to. Thank you for striving to help us even when you were getting an earful of abuse. Humans like you are rare to find in today's world. When most people today only care about themselves and their sorry lives, you decided to make yourself an angel and help us out. I'm sorry about your wife and I hope you will be reunited with your daughter and grand-kids some day. Have a happy and blessed life."

Yours truly,