Archive for December, 2011

The Unforgettable Cab Ride

Posted by Freddy on Dec-25-2011

Some Years ago, I met a man who drove a cab for a living. Once, he arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But he had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, he always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, he reasoned to himself. So he walked to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice.

He could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before him. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. He took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took his arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking him for his kindness.

“It’s nothing,” he told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave him an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” he answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

He looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

He quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” he asked.

For the next two hours, they drove through the city. She showed him the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. They drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask him to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

They drove in silence to the address she had given him.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. He opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” he said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers.”

Almost without thinking, he bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

He squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind him, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

He didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. He drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, he could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if he had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, he said to himself, “ I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one”.

Self Actualization!

Posted by Freddy on Dec-18-2011

Sometimes I wonder, sitting in my cozy little captain’s cabin on board my ship, at myself. How I have evolved both as a mariner as well as a human being, and I can see that after a certain point there are no two lines but just one which holds all my character and my profession in perfect harmony with each other. A mariners’ life from my view point is perfect for a person that I am. So, my nature, my character and my chosen profession gels really well in perfect harmony inasmuch as, I am a born mariner.

Sometime I sit and wonder at all those philanthropic people who give a lot to the society, while expecting nothing in return. They are indeed great souls to be able to do that. I feel miserable when I think I cannot travel that extra mile to the ordinary masses as a mariner. Are people benefitting from me as a human being? What am I supposed to do as a Human? What is the purpose of my life? It was then that I came across the following statement in one of my books.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This is the need we may call self-actualization … It refers to man’s desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming …”

It was like a new light dawning on me. “ Self Actualization” or as better put by the Indians, “ Self Realization” This is what make a person truly happy. I realize that this is possible only in stages. Each stage reveals one aspect of my own character, evolving higher and higher into deeper layers of understanding myself. Each layer of my character is perfect in itself and I am at peace with it. Each time I think about my I feel a lot lighter. And Happier!

Honesty – Always the Best Policy

Posted by Freddy on Dec-10-2011

Some of the stories from the Far East have always struck me with their simplicity yet profound messages. There had been a time when I have had a collection of such stories read from various sources, written in my diary. I go through them every once in a while, whenever I need that bit of internal strength that is very much required of a sailor that I am. Here is one such story from my back pages.

In the Far East the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.” The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor.”

One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by – still nothing in Ling’s pot.

He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.

Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful–in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey, nice try.”

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”

All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”

Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”

That which is called Goodness

Posted by Freddy on Dec-6-2011

A great man who has inspired my thoughts is Rabindranath Tagore. I admire him greatly for his wisdom and his ability to put into words great ideals which are otherwise difficult to express. Here is an excerpt that I share from one of his literary works,“Sadhana”.

The question will be asked, “What is goodness? What does our moral nature mean?” My answer is that when a man begins to have an extended vision of his self, when he realizes that he is much more than at present he seems to be, he begins to get conscious of his moral nature. Then he grows aware of that which he is yet to be, and the state not yet experienced by him becomes more real than that under his direct experience.

Necessarily, his perspective of life changes, and his will takes the place of his wishes. For will is the supreme wish of the larger life, the life whose greater portion is out of our present reach, most of whose objects are not before our sight.

Then comes the conflict of our lesser man with our greater man, of our wishes with our will, of the desire for things affecting our sense with the purpose that is within our heart. Then we begin to distinguish between what we immediately desire and what is good. For good is that which is desirable for our greater self. Thus, the sense of goodness comes out of a truer view of our life, which is connected view of the wholeness of the field of life, and which takes into account not only what is present before us but what is not, and perhaps never humanly can be.