A random act of kindness – a virtue that unknowingly spills out of us, or at times for us through others. And the arbitrary nature of such actions define who we are and what is it that we truly believe in. While there are many such episodes, I am reminded of a small act of thoughtfulness during one of my husband’s travels.
Due to frequent traveler’s miles, he was upgraded to business class on an international flight to India. After pushing his luggage in the spacious overhead bins, he pulled out his lunch box that his wife had prepared that morning. He stroked it devotedly before placing it in front of him thinking of her effort of getting up early to cook in case he was unable to get something to eat. He has been a vegetarian throughout his life and it often posed a threat of not finding food to his liking in long flights such as these. As a rule of thumb, she prepared meals for all his flights. He was recently diagnosed as diabetic and the food came in handy whenever he was stranded due to uncountable issues related to delays, technical difficulties, weather and everything you can imagine related to a flight.
After a few hours, he woke up as the lunch carts rolled by and whispering menus came at close quarters. As his blurry sight caught up with the variety of fellow travelers, his gaze settled on an old south Indian couple, past the aisle. They smiled as their eyes met. A few moments later, while he was mentioning his choice of meal to the hostess, he caught them anxiously talking to the attendant in broken English, enquiring about their special meals.
“Sorry sir, but we do not have vegetarian meals ordered for you on this flight” the attendant replied in patient but stern voice.
“No meat, no egg, no fish.” They kept repeating, nodding their desperate heads.
“What if I remove the meat from the sandwich and pasta?” The host suggested in a rational tone, expecting them to say yes.
“No, not same. Cannot eat that.” The older man’s helpless tone made the attendant raise his brow in impatience.
“Sorry sir, then I don’t have anything for you; should I get some chips – you should eat something; it is a very long flight.
The couple looked at each other and stayed silent nodding in affirmation for the packets of chips.
Watching their conversation from his seat, he finally intervened.
“The couple is vegetarian, they cannot consume the food which is touched by meat before – it is against their religious beliefs.” He patted the host in an understanding way and suggested him to move forward. “Let me see if I can help them.”
He looked at their faces – part tired, part hungry and part unsure as how they’d go along in a long journey without substantial food.
He lifted his lunch box and offered it to them.
“I am a vegetarian,” he said slowly for them to comprehend. “My wife made this wheat bread and spicy cauliflower this morning. It should be sufficient for you.”
“What about you?” the old man stood up in gratitude.
“I ordered vegetarian meal, but if you had it you may not like it – my home cooked food is more to your taste.” He smiled signalling them to start. The couple looked at each other and accepted his tiffin – holding it like a treasure of jewels – inspecting it carefully.
From the corner of his eyes, while eating the airline food, he watched them devour the food and a small tear of happiness held their reflection throughout his journey.
“It is true,” he whispered to himself – “we are compassionate and kind by design.”