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Hope of Ramadan

About Lekha Menon

A journalist for 16 years, Lekha Menon is the editor of a leading Bollywood and lifestyle magazine in the UAE. Prior to this, she was working with well known media houses like The Times of India and DNA in India.

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It was the month of Ramadan. I was generally depressed. Alone, trying to adjust in a new city, missing my home, family, friends and familiar settings.

But that night felt particularly miserable. I hated my new job and new life more than ever before. It had only been a few months since I shifted base to Dubai from Mumbai. Nothing seemed to go right. I was stuck in a job I couldn’t feel connected to, I barely had two friends I could have a decent conversation with and the city just wasn’t working for me.

Ramadan meant it was hot, and the weather directly affected my mood.

I had been pulled up for getting something wrong at work, despite my best efforts. To rectify it, I offered to go to office at 10pm. After working on it for nearly an hour, the situation was salvaged. But what made me angry was the “crisis” wasn’t all that big a deal. In the past I had handled and been appreciated for handling far more difficult challenges. The point is, I couldn’t adjust to the new culture at work and in the city. Though objectively it wasn’t stressful; my negative attitude made every problem far bigger than what it actually was. The real reason for my stress was that I was lonely and out of my comfort zone. Hence everything appeared magnified in front of my myopic lenses.

Anyway, once the problem at work was solved, I stepped out of the dark and silent building at about 11pm and hailed a cab. I didn’t bother to check who was on the driver’s seat. Robotically I blurted out my address.

Suddenly a dam inside burst. In a split second, my life and the choices I had made flashed before me as I tried to get a grip of the situation. Washed with self-pity and “what am I doing”, “where am I going”, “why did I make this move” questions, I was almost on the verge of tears. To prevent any further embarrassment I called up my best friend in India – you know those soul sisters or brothers who don’t mind answering your phone at midnight – to pour my heart out. As expected, she answered at the first ring. From then on, for the next 10 mins I launched a long monologue about my misery, my stress, how things weren’t working at office, lack of companionship and so on. The conversation was largely in English.

She said a few soothing words, which didn’t exactly comfort me but made a difference nevertheless. After all, that’s the best that friends can do, right? Say that everything will be alright and advise not to worry. Yet, even that matters so much when you are low.

I was still in that zone when a gentle voice shook me out of my stupor.
“Madam aapka ghar aa gaya.” (You have arrived at your destination).

I looked up to see a kind, elderly face on the driver’s seat. Still absent-minded, I thrust a few wads of notes for his services and was about to get off the cab when his voice stopped me again. He spoke in Hindi.

“Madam, I can see that you are stressed but can I say something? You are not the only one. We are all going through our own private hell. I am driving a taxi for nearly 16 hours a day in this heat, in this foreign land, away from my loved ones in Pakistan, I have so many life issues but still don’t forget to thank Him for what I have.”

A soothing voice perhaps was just what I wanted to hear. It was midnight. He wasn’t trying to console me; he claimed to be a companion in my miseries, dwindling on the same boat as I.

He continued, “Stress mat Lena beta (don’t get stressed, child). Everything will be alright. Just have patience.” And smiled, a large smile that attested he meant every word of it.

What he said was hardly profound. He probably did not even understand half the things I had ranted about in the phone conversation. More educated, far more erudite and market-savvy writers and self-help gurus have said and written thousands of words preaching just the same thing. But there was something about that voice, those compassionate sincere words that made an impact. Forgetting the embarrassment of having a stranger privy to my deepest fears, I pulled myself back to the present and said “Shukriya! (thank you)” before stepping out and walking towards my apartment.

I think he waited for a few minutes to ensure I had safely entered my building, before driving away. I could sense it though I didn’t look back. You just sense these things… Especially when a stranger does it.

In a day and age when even the best of friends or family don’t have time for you when you need it most, the compassion from someone unexpected, brings a strange kind of comfort and hope. It was not that my problems vanished magically. The struggles of life continued. But somewhere that voice stayed with me. The voice that said, “Everything will be alright, don’t worry, have faith.”

In hindsight, it’s a small episode in this large theatre called life. The guest appearances at times show up as the main lead, arching the way forward. And that’s what makes it all worth it.

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