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Noble moments

The much-awaited monsoon in India has its seamy side. Houses drip, moths and mayflies appear in swarms from nowhere and dance around the electric lights, clothes on lines take a lot more time to dry, and the streets become slushy. A heavy downpour had flooded Calcutta's roads. Trams had stopped plying the tracks, which were deep under water. The potholes punctuating the roads and filled with water posed danger to those wading through the inundated roads. The thundering buses were churning and cascading enormous volumes of slimy water on both sides and drenching the scurrying pedestrians.

I was about to cross the road when a car cut in toward me with frightening speed. As it came closer, I resigned to the inevitability of a muddy shower. But the driver suddenly slowed down and saw me reach the other side of the road undefiled. He smiled and waved before accelerating and getting lost in the traffic. What a gesture!

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It was my first visit to Jamshedpur, the foremost industrial town of India. After attending to my official business, I could not get any transport to go to my hotel and found myself stranded in a new place. The return office rush had started. There was an unending stream of auto-rickshaws, scooters, motorbikes, and cars.

To add to my discomfiture, menacing dark clouds started gathering in the sky and it could start raining any moment. I started walking past the elegant houses dotting both sides of the broad road, impatiently looking for an empty cab.

Suddenly a gleaming limousine pulled up beside me in front of an imposing bungalow. At the wheel sat an immaculately dressed gentleman. I briefly explained my predicament and requested a lift if he was going toward Hotel Nataraj. He raised his eyebrows, reflected a little, and there was a flicker of a smile. Then, as if on an impulse, he asked me to get in. I struck, up conversation and we exchanged visiting cards.

The distance to the hotel turned out much more than I had imagined. But he drove me right up to the hotel and we shook hands. I expected him to proceed in the same direction, but he made a swift U-turn. The tires screeched on the asphalt and the car vanished in the gathering darkness. Consider my surprise and my gratitude when it became clear to me that he had actually picked me up right in front of his house.

Another incident etched in my mind is an occasion when I was trying to get a train reservation from Jabalpur to New Delhi, a distance of some 600 miles. I had to reach New Delhi urgently, but the rush was heavy and no berths were available in any class. Failing to board the train would mean missing a big business opportunity. I had a brain wave. Keeping the fingers crossed, I purchased wait-listed tickets for both first and second class.

Just before the departure of the train, thanks to last-minute cancellations, I was able to get a reservation in the first class. But there was no way I could get the refund of the second-class ticket. As per the rules, this could only be done at Jabalpur station, and there was no time. Then an unknown gentleman descended like an angel. Ignoring my embarrassment, he readily paid me the full amount of the extra ticket. He said that he had come to see someone off and did not mind collecting the refund while going out. To this day I rue that I could not adequately thank the unknown benefactor.

These complete strangers who just flitted past and stirred my life like an exquisite melody have always symbolized to me the acme of all that is noble and magnanimous in a human being. I continue to treasure those moments when sublime, heartwarming human messages come my way. I hold close to my heart those seemingly small incidents, which are like radiant rainbow ribbons after the storm.

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