Returning From The Pune Giftivism Gathering

Posted by Siddharth Sthalekar on Dec 25, 2012
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On our way back from the Pune retreat to Mumbai, Lahar and I ended up leaving pretty late. After negotiating the traffic in the city, we hit the highway and that's when we realized we had a flat tire. Looked like our plans to get home early weren't really materializing, and I wouldn't get too much sleep before my 5am flight the next morning. Amidst cars whizzing by we managed to change the flat with the help of a cellphone torch! Considering we had a whole highway ahead of us, we decided to get the flat repaired as well.

We finally came across a tire repair shop that was open at this late hour. It was a little shanty, run by a young man called Karan and two others. They were all originally from Uttar Pradesh, but had made this their living for the last 9 years. Immediately, Karan said they would be glad to help and interrupted his meal of irregularly shaped rotis and a spicy gravy.

After some introspection in the dim light of a CFL bulb, Karan pointed out that we had punctures in several places in the tire and tube. Unusual, but I was really thinking about the flight and wanted to get things rolling as soon as possible. One of his colleagues then ran up to point out that another tire was punctured as well. Immediately, my mind was gripped with suspicion. I could feel waves of rage shooting through me. They had sensed we were desperate to get home and were taking advantage of the fact that we didn't have too many options at this time. This was literally Highway robbery!

As I was lost in my thoughts, contemplating what to do next, Karan burnt his hand while fixing the tire with a flame. Justice! - I thought. But it was no coincidence that this was all happening just after a Giftivism retreat. The last three days in Pune had taught me the we were higher than this hatred. I had to push myself but I insisted on healing his wound. I found a tube of burn cream in the hut and pulled his reluctant hand towards me. As I applied the cream, I could see charred wounds from previous incidents like this. A wave of compassion swept through me and I now saw things clearly.

In his life by the ruthless highway, it was so easy for him to slip into a life without values. It was so easy to cheat the apparently 'well-off-people-in-cars'. Clearly, this was not a result of 'Poverty' but a lack of trust and love. As I continued applying the cream, I had two choices ahead of me. I could either go on the offensive and accuse him of cheating me (which I couldn't prove in any case) or I could help rebuild trust between two individuals. The latter was the tougher option since it meant I had to swallow my ego and risk being labelled a 'fool'.

I then looked into his eyes and said, "Thank you. For serving all the pilgrims on this highway. I don't know what we would have done without you. I'm sorry you had to interrupt your meal for us." And at that moment, there was a shift in him. He looked away instantly and returned to work. In the silence between us, I somehow felt a deep connection. Two minutes later, he turned around and said something I did not expect - "Sir, I have a confession to make. My name is not Karan, its Mohammed Tahir. I use it to fit into the community here."

It was then that I realized my role was not a 'settlement' of the right amount, but to create a space safe enough for him to tell me that. Perhaps, it is the only significant thing us humans can do for one another. May we all continue to make choices that rebuild love and trust.


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Comments (3)

  • Nipun wrote ...

    What a wonderful story, Siddharth! Indeed, rekindling that inter-connection amongst us will go a long way to dissolve our societal problems, when they are small.

  • Bela wrote ...

    this was incredibly touching and inspiring...thanks so much for taking the time to share it with everyone:)

  • Deepti wrote ...

    So incredible...touched by this everytime I read it. Thank you