In Debt To Strangers
--by singlestep, posted Mar 9, 2008
V.P. Menon was a significant political figure in India during its struggles for independence from Britain.
Eldest son of twelve children, he quit school at thirteen and worked as a laborer, coal miner, factory hand, merchant, and schoolteacher. He talked his way into a job as a clerk in the Indian administration, and his rise was meteoric-- largely because of his integrity and brilliant skills in working with both Indian and British officials in a productive way. (...)
Two characteristics stood out as particularly memorable -- a kind of aloof, impersonal efficiency, and a reputation for personal charity. His daughter explained the background of this latter trait after he died. When Menon arrived in Delhi to seek a job in government, all his possessions, including his money and I.D., were stolen at the railroad station. He would have to return home on foot, defeated. In desperation he turned to an elderly Sikh, explained his troubles and asked for a temporary loan of fifteen rupees to tide him over until he could get a job. The Sikh gave him the money. When Menon asked for his address so that he could repay the man, the Sikh said that Menon owed the debt to any stranger who came to him in need, as long as he lived. The help came from a stranger and was to be repaid to a stranger.
Menon never forgot that debt, neither the gift of trust nor the fifteen rupees. His daughter said that the day before Menon died, a beggar came to the family home in Bangalore asking for help to buy new sandals, for his feet were covered with sores. Menon asked his daughter to take fifteen rupees out of his wallet to give to the man. It was Menon's last conscious act.
This story was told to me by a man whose name I do not know, he was standing beside me in the Bombay airport at the left-baggage counter, I had come to reclaim my bags and had no Indian currency left. The agent would not take a traveler's check, and I was uncertain about getting my luggage and making my plane. The man paid my claim-check fee -- about eighty cents -- and told me the story as a way of refusing my attempt to figure out how to repay him. His father had been Menon's assistant and had learned Menon's charitable ways and passed them on to his son, The son had continued the tradition of seeing himself in debt to strangers, whenever, however.
From a nameless Sikh to an Indian civil servant to his assistant to his son to me, a white foreigner in a moment of frustrating inconvenience. The gift was not large as money goes, and my need was not great, but the spirit of the gift is beyond price and leaves me blessed and in debt.
--From: " All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten " by Robert Fulghum
God Bless u :)
Love and HUgs
:^) <--- tongue firmly in cheek!
Thanks Singlestep! I owe you a hug!