Yesterday morning, I woke up late and got ready for work grumbling to myself about the hot weather that I needed to brave. I finished my morning duties, got dressed, opened the curtains, picked up my bag, switched off lights, locked the door and left home as usual. I drive a decade old pick-up which is surprisingly in good driving condition. As I exit my housing compound and make my way to the highway, I see this white car speeding up behind me flashing headlights. I ignore and make a turn. Not giving up this car follows honking. I slow down and move towards the side of the road wondering if my tyre is punctured. The car stops by my side and the windows roll down. I see two guys inside saying something that I can barely hear. I shut the radio and ask them what’s going on? They would have thought I was Tamil as they start speaking the same. They tell me they need to pick up a ladder. And then I understood what this was all about.
The pick-up I drive has a cargo space in the rear which makes it super easy to transport goods. Here, in Qatar – a booming place for the construction industry, you see plenty of pick-ups on road delivering materials to sites. Goods stacked up to the limit, tied with ropes. Now these two guys would have assumed I am the driver (though I dress in formals) and are basically asking me a favour. They need me to pick up a ladder from a nearby villa and bring it across the street. Literally a ten minute job.
They make a very kind request saying it would be of great help. I say I am already late for work and I need to go. One guy points to a direction and says, “it’s just there, we cannot load it in our car, please”. I grunt under my breath, hesitate and kind of feel cornered. I don’t know why I said okay. So one of the guy in a blue coverall smeared with paint gets down and hops on the back seat. I am literally pissed, but hide it well. I drive rash and fast trying to imply that I am in a hurry. So this lean guy points me towards the villa which is straight down the road. I try to avoid small talk as much as possible. He tells me that all vehicles were booked and they couldn’t find one. It seems this guy and his friend landed an AC repair contracting job and it was their first day and they didn’t want to make a bad impression. I thought to myself, if that was the case, they should have thought of transporting a ladder way before. I still couldn’t believe I said okay. I had a million other things to do and was already late for work. But yeah, when you run your own business, it’s okay to arrive late.
So I stop by the villa and the guy runs to get the ladder, jumps on the rear and loads it all by himself as I sit watching. I tell him he will need to secure the ladder and hand him the rope. He ties it. Meanwhile his friend arrives with the car just as we are heading back. On the way back, the guy tells me that, for the past one hour they tried flagging down several pick-ups but every single one refused to help. I told him no one will stop in this hot weather and in the morning people are rushing to work. I reach the destination, guy unties and unloads the ladder. The car follows us in time and halts. I am sitting and watching in my rear view mirror waiting for the guy to return my rope so I can go back to minding my own business. Lean guy goes to his friend in the car and comes running to me. He hands me Ten Riyals. I laugh, and refuse. He kindly asks me to accept as he has to return a favour. I roll my windows up, smile and hit the pedal.
I wasn’t pissed anymore. Have you ever stood in a supermarket and the customer mistaken you for an attendant? I remember once, I was in a restaurant standing after placing a take away order and some hungry customer mistook me for the waiter. You have a choice to feel insulted or take it as a joke. I usually blame my unkempt appearance. I was humbled. Ten Riyals is a small sum. He himself being a poor labourer handed me whatever he could. It’s the thought that counts. It was my remuneration for labour. I felt good like the boy scout who did one good deed a day.
We all feel happy when we help someone. It’s a special kind of happiness not expecting anything in return. And to me, I hadn’t experienced this in a very long time. Have I stopped helping others? Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I helped someone. I have ignored so many requests, made up many excuses to avoid people in general. I have seen people asking for a lift sweating under the hot sun. I would drive by and not make eye-contact. Why? Because I had so many other things to do and it’s not my job to help each and everyone. But then helping someone is about making time and an effort right? I always thought I was a generous person and would help if it is in my capacity. But that remained a thought and never exercised it. There are cases where people have used me to their advantages. Maybe that’s what made me think twice before offering someone a hand. Am I not a samaritan anymore?
I, like everyone else live in a fast moving world where there is no time for anything at all. And it is in this hustle and bustle, I forget to stop and think. This incident is a speed breaker and I have promised myself that I will at least stop to listen to what the other person wants and decide if I can help or not.