Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In praise of Mumbai's finest......मुंबईचे सर्वोत्तम .....

Every afternoon, she left to attend a computer animation class in the city , about 10 miles away. She would take one of Mumbai's long distance buses, and after several years of tangling with the crowds therein, had now perfected the knack of being one of them, as they all clutched and accelerated along Mumbai's randomly potholes roads.

She would finish her class just before 5 and catch a bus back. Her class was in Andheri, one of Mumbai's busiest areas, in one of the western suburbs, and on one of its busiest streets, now trying to manage more crowds than it was meant to see. Given the uncertain delays that are now a part of Mumbai life, she always called her mother once she was at the bus stop.

She waited, and she waited. No sign of the bus. Maybe one had just gone. Besides there was a biggish crowd , given the peak evening hours just setting in. She had to pickup a package , and she thought she should avoid the usual rush-rush-squeeze-and-slide-in technique of getting a foothold in the bus. She thought she ought to walk a bit further down near the big bridge, where she would get access to 2 more buses going to her home area. So a better chance of getting a place to sit in the bus, unlike most days when she travelled standing all the way....

And so she started walking. The pavements were taken over by various hawkers, selling everything from purses, to clothes to latest bestsellers at throwaway prices. She had to buy a cake and a gift, and having done that, she stepped on to the road with her rucksack and packages, , and wove through the people waiting for various buses at the various bus stops that lined the road.

She quickened her pace. This was her everyday path, and once she got into a bus she would call her folks at home.

The next thing she knew was that something hit her from the back, and she was flat out on the road. Her eyes were shut, and it took an instant for her to realize that she was hit by a speeding motorcycle. The same motorcycles, that specialize in taking over traffic from the left, and make life very difficult for ordinary folks alighting from and climbing into, buses, as they drive uncontrollably in the thin road strip between the waiting people and the bus. Road construction in Mumbai has given birth to motorcycle desperados.

People gathered. Mostly all men. Some who were waiting for a bus. Some who were selling something by the roadside. Some, students like her, on their way home. And then she felt something warm and red spreading across her face. There was a dull pain in the head. She looked around her for her package. It lay a few feet from her, still inside the plastic bag, .

"Take her to Cooper Hospital, take her to Cooper" , someone said; "there is a deep gash"....

"Oye" , "Where did the motorcycle go ? " Shameless fellow. How many times do we shout at them ? Chase him...."

"And the motorcycle got away ? The swine...." someone else thundered...

They stopped a rickshaw. A gentleman got in with her and they rushed her to Cooper Hospital, the nearest Municipal hospital. Along with the packages. She didn't know what was happening. The headache had become intense. her eyes were paining, her face was bleeding, and there was blood spattered all over her clothes. The good Samaritan gentleman offered her a big cloth piece to hold against her wound, and it immediately soaked up the gushing blood. Clotting had set in by the time she was wheeled into emergency.

The staff instantly attended to her, put stitches on her forehead where the wound was bad, dressed her other wounds on her arm and hands. As a child she faced injections better than anyone else, and she did the same now. But iodine and benzoine was something else. Her mother, who normally blew air on her wounds whenever iodine burned, was not there beside her. But the pain and the hurt was too much, and the nurses were alarmed at her uninhibited cries of pain..... Local anaesthetic for stitching and a standard tetanus shot was given. Very interestingly, , all this was done by a very capable male nurse, as the female nurses thought she was making an unnecccessary amount of noise, and stood away.....(So she told her mother later, but it is possible that people were assigned work according to their expertise....)

All this time, the rickshaw driver and the good Samaritan waited outside. Guarding the package she had with her, but was asked to leave outside. Her face was carefully cleaned and the signs of bleeding were now less intimidating. She emerged from the ER her clothes speckled with blood, as if she was emerging from a fight. They asked her where she lived, and the gentleman decided to see her home, given the state she was in.

In the meanwhile her mother was worried as she didn't reach home in time, and neither was her cell phone reachable. Worried thoughts clouding the mind. Something must have happened. Put on the television and radio, to see if they were reporting anything. This was Mumbai. Anything could happen.... Worry advanced into desperation. Phone calls were made to her friends if they had heard from her.....a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach. Holding on to a slim glimmer of hope that said her cell phone battery could simply be discharged, and she would be shortly home.....

An hour later she called her mother.

The rickshaw driver and the gentleman had accompanied her towards her home, in the rickshaw. There was a huge traffic jam a kilometer away from her house. A routine fixture. The diesel fumes and heat made her nauseous, and as she did every day, she decided to get off and walk the last kilometer home. Both the worried gentleman thought she would feel giddy with the loss of blood and the walking effort ,in such polluted air.

But she was adamant.

So she got off, and walked, and suddenly realized her cell phone was in her pocket. She tried to switch it on, and it worked. She called home. Her father rushed to pick her up, and her mother heaved a huge sigh of thankfulness and relief. A sudden loss of energy, following a clearing of a huge tension. This season, the variety amongst "things that could happen to anyone" was simply huge, given the current scenario.

And so she came home, carrying a package with a chocolate cake inside, which had survived the entire trauma on the road and in the municipal hospital. It was to be a secret and her mother was not to know she was bringing it for her mother's birthday the next day. So her mother pretended to be busy talking to the doctor on the phone , while the cake, with the totally homogenized icing and shaken up innards, was hidden in the refrigerator. ......

A wet-wipe of hair crusted with dried blood, a warm sponging, a hot dinner, and a cool glass of buttermilk later, she lay on the couch talking to her folks about the whole thing. How they helped.How she trusted. And how she didn't even know their names.....

No one knows who the two good Samaritans were. She told her mother that the trip to the hospital etc was not charged by the driver. The other gentleman thought he shouldn't let the girl go alone. They didn't even live anywhere near her area, but simply thought they should be doing what they did. The rickshaw driver , probably lost a huge amount of his daily earnings, and the gentleman was probably late reaching home himself, where his own family probably worried.

But in a city which has seen the worst of times, this was a sign that ordinary folks had extraordinary spirit.

Ordinary folks who crowd the roads, rushing home, walking, or by public transport, but they simply dash in to help when it is required. They have done it in every single bomb blast and natural calamity in Mumbai, and they continue to do it again and again. Displaying the Bhgawad Gita philosphy , that says, do your work as the best form of worship, and dont worry about the fruits of your work. And then they fade out of the picture, having immeasurably enriched our belief in the basic goodness of people.

A Public Municipal Hospital, often constantly criticised in the papers every alternate day, shines big and bright this festive season, having done its bit , in an outstanding and timely manner, for a young girl, alone, hurt, bleeding, and accompanied by two golden hearted folks.

The girl is my daughter. She is just back from our Institute hospital, where her doctor attended to her in detail, checked the wounds, cleaned and dressed them , and praised the nifty work done by the Cooper Hospital personnel. I am still trying to find out how to trace who the two good Samaritans were. My daughter doesn't remember too much. Just a huge surge of adrenalin that brought her home from the jammed up traffic, leaving two dumbstruck people in a rickshaw that couldn't move ahead........

This festive season, after a traumatic set of events, its time to believe once again in the goodness of the common man, and whatever inspires the man to behave so.....

And I am still wondering how to go about tracing these two wonderful people......


  1. Dear Madam,

    Good to hear that your daughter is recovering and is considerably better now.

    I have the firm belief that every man has goodness in himself/herself which shows up at unexpected times. Every common man has been a hero at some point of time in his/her life. A big city need not necessarily be a bad city. I'm a proud Mumbaikar.

    As to tracing the good Samaritans, you could try the autorickshaw association. Alternatively the Cooper hospital where either of these two who would have given their names and contact no.s on the admission form.

  2. Dear Madam,

    Sorry I forgot.

    Many Many Happy returns of the day. May the year ahead bring you and your family a lot prosperity and good health.

  3. After what happened in Mumbai last month, I had this tendency to think the worst of any person or situation. See conspiracies, greed and hopelessness everywhere. But obviously I am wrong. Good people do exist, only they are usually silent and unseen. Once in a while they come up with something like this and give us hope again. Bravo to both of them! I hope you are able to trace them.

  4. Ahh ! i hope she is doing ok. Sometimes we are tested but it is those tests there is hope that peters just let us all know that it not over. Its far from over. And that there is still a whole lot of 'human' in the world.

    I really hope she is ok and she is recovering. Please let us know of any help that we can be of.

    And may your search for the samiratns lead you somewhere. Frankly, i dont think those people did it with any expectation of a return of any kind..not even an appreciation. They did it because it jsut was the right thing to do. Because to so important now.

    I dont know what to do..but i just want to do something..For now, i'lll just wish her well and give a prayer of thanks to the forces ! Will speak to you...

    And going by Ganesh's comment..i want to wish you on your birthday as well..sad that this had to take place today. But somethings..have a purpose that we cant see..!

    Wishing her a speedy recovery..of health, confidence and cheer.

  5. What a terrible experience for your daughter. I am glad that the good Samaritans helped her when she needed it. There are good people everywhere who will always come to the rescue.

    Perhaps you can write a letter to the editor thanking them and hope they see it.

    I saw the news about the terrorist attack when I was in the rehabilitation center and I hoped that no one you knew was involved. I know Mumbai is a large city, but I did think of you immediately.

  6. Hope for a quick recovery of your daughter.

    After Mumbai Terror attack, the thought process of every Mumbaikar has changed and is put up perfectly by you.

    And yes, Happy Birth Day!


  7. Oh, I'm so happy your daughter is safe and received such wonderful help from two remarkable people! I can just imagine the joy and gratitude that you feel. I do so hope you are able to locate them. It's wonderfully inspiring to read something like this at any time of the year, but particularly after all the violence in Mumbai recently. Thank you as always!

  8. Oh what a scary experience. But it also underlines how wonderful we can all be as humans.

    I am so glad that your daughter is fine now.

    Truly what those people did for her is wonderful. In a city like Mumbai where time and compassion are traded for money, to do so much is a wonderful gesture.

    To track them down, going back to the accident spot at the same time might be something to do. Perhaps it is a regular commuter from the area. Rickshas also like to come back to the same spots to await fares.

    And Happy Birthday. Did the cake taste sweeter for all its travails and travels?

  9. I wish and hope ur daughter is recovering well.
    This incident reinforces my faith in goodness. Whenevr I used to worry about the wicked bad world, my dad used to say..still this world runs because of good people only,and will keep on till there are few good people as they have more wt than bad though they may be more in nos.

  10. Its heartening to know that there are good Samaritans around..however rare, invisible they are..

  11. Ganesh. Thank you. The whole episode teaches you so many things. ....

    Devaki We need to keep faith in the basic goodness in a human being, regardless of events around us. It is difficult. But we must try...

    Kavi Thank you. Young folks recover very fast, particularly with decent medical attention, and lots of good wishes coming in from all one's friends. Yes she is doing fine, had a major portion of the bashed up cake, and is basking in all the attention. The stitches come out at New Years. Good Omen.

    Darlene Confirms your belief in the basic goodness in everyone doesnt it, despite what we went through in Mumbai last month? I am so glad that you are recovering and are back home. Please take good care of your self, a happy and healthy New Year to you, and I look forward to reading your wonderful blog...

    Sandeep Thank you for your wishes for my daughter (and me :-) ). She is recovering fast. Most important , she has put the trauma behind her. Maybe thats what we need to do in the New Year....

    Sylvia K Thank you so much for your concern and good wishes. I think we have so much to learn from all such events.... A very happy new year to you.

    Another Kiran in NYC Thank you , my daughter is recovering well. The cake was severely bashed up, but was sweeter for the great mingling of all the ingredients along with kind thoughts, concern, and wonderful help from such golden daughter is truly a lucky girl.

    renu What your Dad said is so true. And thank you for your good wishes for my daughter...

    lakshmi I knew there was Somebody Up There, looking out for folks, but its nice to know that down here, too, we do not have to give up hope...our world is full of wonderful folks....

  12. Thanks for sharing such a heart rendering story..."there is still some goodness left in the streets of Mumbai"...and the 2 guardian angels who were there at the right moment...just like how it was meant to be...

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.....

  13. Hello Ugich Konitari,

    I can understand what you would have gone through. You must be proud of your daughter who seems to have handled this well. As for the two samaritans, I can only pray that may God make you successful in tracing them, which would be your new year [and birthday] gift.

    One thing above all is that the experience reinforces our belief in the innate good nature of people, and this is shared by your readers as well. Thanks a ton for bringing the story to us,

  14. Baapre... "The girl is my daughter" vachlyavar potaat agadi dhassa zhala. While I was reading the whole thing never for a second i thought it would be anyone close to you..worse still your own daughter.Tumha doghaanvar kai betla asel hyachi kalpana pan na keleli bari. Pan porgi dheerachi. Tiche tey guardian angels hote ga. Nehmi tey aapli kaalji ghetach astat.
    But the truth of the matter is that the world still functions because there are more good people in this world than bad people.

    Tumha doghanchi punyaayee.. tula haa vadhdivas nehmich lakshaat raheel.

    Happy birthday dear.

    Kaal tey UP chya engineer cha aikun tar agadich galun gelya sarkha zhalay. Kai pratikriya dyavi hey pan kalenasa zhalay. Kashala baherchya terrorist baddal bolaycha hey aaple politicians khare terrorist. kashta karun shikun pudhe alelya sachotichya lokanna asa kartat ani aapla nebhlat sarkaar ani police khaata jey hey sagla paathishi ghalta.

    Survaat kuthun kashi ani koni karaychi ga "ugich" hey sagla nistaraayla.


  15. scary....and glad she's fine. Other than the 2 samaritans, your daughter did her thing as "Mumbai's Finest" too - she got the cake home intact :-)

    Hopped on here from Chammak Challo.

    It is amazing how a comment from someone you don't know leads to a lovely blog like yours. Keep blogging and hope to see you again.

  16. Sukku Thank you. As you so rightly say, ."there is still some goodness left in the streets of Mumbai"....I am sure that Mumbai was never really bad, its just that you read more about the bad, and less about the good. But this certainly reinforces one's belief in the basic decency of the common man...

    Vivek Patwardhan Thank you. Looking back at things, it is clear, that just when you think of only bad things happening, thanks to recent events, some things happen to once again change your mindset, and make you feel optimistic about things again. Such is life, and one must learn from it.

    Vinita Just reenforces my belief, that there is Someone Up There, looking out for us; and that we should never give up hope.

    The Comic Project Welcome to the blog, and thank you. And yes , not only did she bring the cake home, bashed up-but-unbowed, but she consumed the major part of it too. ( I can see you applauding ).

    But the real heroes have to be the two folks who helped her. I thank my stars, and whoever instilled these values in them ....

  17. Hope your daughter has recovered and is feeling better. And also a very Happy Birthday to you. It is really wonderful how one can find goodness in unexpected ways, especially in times of trauma.

  18. Good to hear that your daughter is recovering. And my best wishes to you for a wonderful year ahead although the birthday itself may have been tainted by some anxious moments.
    It is stories like this of ordinary men and what they can do to make a difference that inspires us and make us want to be better. Thanks are due to them not only for the timely help they gave but for keeping the spirit of humanity alive.

  19. Sucharita Just emailed you...

    Usha Thank you and a very happy new year to you too. You know, what happened in Mumbai has made us all constantly think of the worst in a time of crisis. But something happens to teach us, that we shouldnt lose faith in ordinary folks. And thats the best gift of all.

  20. I am so glad your daughter is doing well and has put this episode behind her. I have always had faith in the human race. So many times in my life I have been given a helping hand in time of need. I think most people are basically good and warm hearted. I hope the new year has wonderful things in store for you.

  21. Like a lot of folk I believe there are 'Angels' among us and they do help those in need - I'm glad that your daughter is no worse for her experience and I'm sure what happened will be retold as an example of the goodness of ordinary people only too willing to help out when they are needed - thus encouraging the same kind actions should the same kindness and help be needed in the future.

    I hope that you and your family have a Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year when it comes.

    Or, as we(Scots) say! 'Aw the Best tae You an Yours - Cheers Pal'.

  22. I have accessed your Blog after an interval of almost 2 to 3 weeks (not for want of interest but various issues that had me tied up in knots). I trust your daughter has by now recovered. Thank you for sharing this incident. It only serves to further strengthen my belief in the goodness of persons around us

    Warm Regards


  23. Judy, Kate, Partha Thank you for your comments. Yes, my daughter is recovering fine. We do the wound-dressing daily at home, and hopefully the stitches come out tomorrow.

    Lots of things to learn from this. One is to never lose faith in your fellow citizens, and their basic goodness. Another is to remember that there is Someone Up There looking out for you. My daughter will have a scar above her eyebrow, for quite some time. But it is so amazing that she isnt at all bothered about this (in these days of excess visuals and makeup publicity). I find this a new maturity ; a side effect of a calamity that just teaches a person something, and makes one stronger in mind .....

  24. Oh my god! I really needed to read something like this ... I am so glad your daughter reached home safe, that there are such wonderful people ... and may god bless them and you too!

    This was really moving, and I loved the positive note you ended it with :)

  25. I had read this one long ago!!

    I also have faith in there being good people too... that is why people can relate to those who talk about peace and non-violence, time and again!