During the recent catastrophe that hit our country, the entitled classes in urban India exposed their true nature. The obscenely rich tycoons, the privileged babus, the glitterati, the chattering classes, the ivory tower intellectuals, the drawing-room socialists, and the political parties all displayed their utter callousness, complete selfishness and criminal disregard for those that served them. The underclass, the unseen wheels that keep our world running smoothly, were abandoned to their fate.
The media highlighted stories of the misery of the abandoned migrant workers trudging home across India, perishing by the wayside, rioting for their rights and other such glimpses of human ignominy.
But what was largely ignored by the mainstream media with their political agenda, was the unprecedented help from ordinary citizens on the way, the good Samaritans spread out across rural Bharat. When reported on the discredited social media, urban skeptics from the privileged classes disbelievingly cried fake news.
I did not find this natural magnanimity unusual at all, having come across such good Samaritans everywhere in India, among the ordinary people, usually far from the teeming metropolises.
Waiting for a bus in Kalpa at Kinnaur on the way back from a trek and finding no seats, we found the locals get off and offer us the seats, saying that they would go the next day.
Being offered food by complete strangers, and often a bed to spend the night, and refusing payment later, was something we experienced in Himachal, Uttarkhand, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Ladakh, Assam, Tamilnadu Jharkhand Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh.
In a remote Kinnaur village we were invited to a festival, and a villager killed his goat to give a meal to twelve alien trekkers whose language they did not know.
Near Chail, a shopkeeper gave shelter to a drenched family, offered dry clothes, tea, and went out in the downpour to call a vehicle from our hotel and refused payment saying that we were in distress and it was his duty to help.
In Kodaikanal, stranded in a downpour a dhaba owner offered us a place to sleep and a drunk stranger finally drove us to our hotel for free.
In Sikkim and in Assam, we were not charged for our meal at a roadside dhaba as we ordered local cuisine, and they shared their family’s meal, and we did not order the tourist fare
In Kashmir, tense with insurgency, our driver took us to his village for an authentic home meal as his guests.
In a deserted stream in Jharkhand, a man we were fearing as a Maoist, shared his catch of fresh fish cooked over fire with us and refused payment.
In a Rajasthan village, four strangers including an Australian were offered dinner, a place to sleep, and food packed for the journey the next day and they wouldn’t accept any compensation from us saying that we were guests.
The numerous times that we have received help from strangers on the highway when vehicle broke down, tires were punctured or we were stranded by landslides or weather I have lost count.
In Ladakh a passing mechanic took two hours to fix our bike and didn’t accept a fee.
Near Draz, stranded by an avalanche, we got dinner and a place to stay in the local army camp as unannounced guests of the army.
Once late night some drunken workmen fixed a leaking fuel pipe on my car, and refused payment because there was a child in the car, while I was suspecting them of trying to rob us.
The biggest lesson came from a truck driver. On a dark rainy night on a highway my silencer hit a rock, came off and was dragging behind emitting sparks. A truck stopped and two shrouded men came out. I was petrified as my wife and child were with me. These kind men took out the silencer, put it in the back seat after an hour long struggle in the dark, and turned down the money I offered saying this is the rule of the highway, and they were stranded wouldn’t I have helped? I was too ashamed to say that I wouldn’t even have stopped. Perhaps he knew this as well, but was too polite to say so.
Which is why when I hear these stories of the unknown unsung Samaritans sharing their little with these strangers, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Nor does it surprise me that the Gurdwaras are doing an exemplary job in feeding these unfortunate migrant marchers. Various organisations are doing a fabulous job too, away from the limelight, including the much maligned RSS.
I know that there is hope, Bharat is resilient, and we will survive, bruised but not broken.
Soumya is an alumnus of St Stephens College and Delhi School of Economics where he was supposed to have studied Economics. He, however, did not let studies interfere with his education. Currently he earns his daily bhat mach by working for a PSU Insurance company, and lectures for peanuts. He is addicted to the printed word and has been devouring it since learning to read. In whatever time this leaves him he pursues his other passions, family, films, travel, food, trekking, wildlife, music, theater, and occasionally, writing.