I often sat with my Grandpa on the wooden patio of our ancestral house. Grandpa was old and sleep did not come easy to him, so we spent a lot of time chit chatting about small little things during the afternoons. Often he would tell me stories and ask me what I learned of it. Our afternoons were seldom boring.
He would call out to the gardener, chat with him and offer him water in the roasting hot afternoons. Sometimes when the weather was breezy we would go out for a stroll and he would distribute biscuits to the street urchins. He knew everyone in the neighbourhood, be it Mr. Seth of the grocery store or Mr. Diwan, the chemist. Raju, the milk delivery boy would often ask for his advice on his studies .Mr. Verma, our perpetually angry neighbour was the only one who never wished Grandpa or even acknowledged his smile.
One day it rained very heavily. Mr. Verma’s daughter was at school. The heavy downpour disrupted city life and schools immediately informed parents to pick up their children as soon as possible. Mr. Verma got stuck in traffic and could not make it on time. Mrs. Verma came to Grandpa with her one year old and pleaded him to help her since could not take the infant in such bad weather.
Grandpa picked up his walking stick and an umbrella and set out to get Priya, Mr. Verma’s daughter home. He walked swiftly on the pavement towards the school which was about five blocks away. On his way he met Raju who was peddling his bicycle speedily on the pavement. On seeing Grandpa he stopped and enquired where Grandpa was going in the incessant rains. Grandpa quickly narrated the happenings to Raju who offered Grandpa a bicycle ride to the school. Raju maneuvered his bicycle through the bumpy and slushy terrain and somehow managed to reach the school. Grandpa went to Priya’s classroom and asked for her. Priya ran towards Grandpa and said, “I thought everyone had forgotten me!”, and started crying. Grandpa consoled her and explained her what had happened and got her back home safely.
That evening Mr. and Mrs. Verma came home and thanked Grandpa for his act of kindness.
I later asked Grandpa,” Why did you help Mr. Verma? He has always been so rude to you!”
“That does not give me the license to be rude to him”, replied Grandpa smiling,” An act of kindness is not weighted by why’s and what’s.”
“But Grandpa Mr. Verma never helps anyone and is so impolite. He is not a nice man. He does not deserve any help”, I said.
“Mr. Verma is what his circumstances have made him. Circumstances, that we are unaware of. So why be so judgmental about him. He might have a story too”, said Grandpa.
I listened quietly beginning to understand what he was saying.
“Priya is a lovely girl, just like you. I couldn’t have left her crying just because her father was rude to me one day”, explained Grandpa.
“How can you love everyone Grandpa? I cannot! Some people are rude, some are so selfish, some are stingy, some are malicious, some are cheats, some are liars! How can you love everyone”, I asked him.
” Always remember”, he said taking off his spectacles and looking straight into my eyes,” If you will keep on judging people you won’t have any time to love them.“