Monday, July 28, 2008

One compliment per day

“Hey, that’s a really pretty dress. You look great in it.”
“I’ll kill to have hair like yours. How do you keep it looking so good.”
‘That colour really suits you – I do think peacock blue is a most beautiful colour, don’t you?”
“Where did you get that handbag – I have been looking for something just like that for ages.”

There are better places to be in than the early morning local train on Mumbai’s Western line. In fact, there are better places to be in than Mumbai.
Get woken up by the ringing of the alarm clock at 7 am, brush your teeth before you are fully awake, stumble into the kitchen, nearly burn your tongue gulping down a scalding cup of tea, shower, change, check that you have your purse, mobile and keys in your hand-bag, pick up the daily paper and tuck it unread under your arm, bang the front door shut, hail three autos before the fourth agrees to take you to Bandra station, fret and fume at the traffic lights, silently curse the pedestrians who prefer walking in front of your auto to being on the pavement, rush onto the over-bridge, grab the last remaining seat on the 8:57 local, catch your breath, open the newspaper to check if the government has fallen or India has lost yet another cricket match.
No wonder then, the only expression you see on people’s faces is a vacant one. Surviving in this City is so tough, who has the time to Live?

Which is where the compliments come in.
The unwritten rules of Mumbai local trains are clear. You avoid eye contact and NEVER speak to someone you do not know. But one day, I found myself standing next to a lady wearing such a pretty dress, I couldn’t but comment on it. She was clearly shocked that a total stranger had complimented her, and barely managed to stammer out a thanks, but five minutes later, I found that a secret smile was still playing around her lips.
Without intending to, I had introduced some colour into an otherwise grey existence, and I was sure that in her current state, she would inadvertently pass her cheer along – a seat given up on the connecting bus, a receptionist greeted with more than a polite nod, perhaps another compliment that made someone else’s day.
I decided then and there to pass one genuine compliment every morning. It had to be sincere – if your nose is red from sneezing, you know the person doesn’t mean it when you are told you are looking great – and it had to be something the person herself believed could be true. To make one person happy per day, everyday.
What is one person in a city of over twenty million? Does one person even matter among the six ten million that uses local trains everyday. Maybe not, but if even some of those people pass the happiness along, and some of the people they pass the message onto pass the message along further… well, you do the maths!
And even if they do not, making one person happier for a couple of minutes is better than nothing at all.

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