Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I am stuck in a long line of cars queuing up at a tollbooth outside Chicago. It's a breezy spring afternoon and the sun collects inside my car warming it up against the air-conditioning. I am fumbling for change, counting all the coins in the cup-holder and still coming up short. There are a few tucked away in the crevices of the passenger seat and as I slide my hand into its various joints I am amazed at how many secret places a car can hold, places where the human hand, for all its purported dexterity, is utterly useless.

I am so busy in my prying that I don't notice a car has cut into the line in front of me. A sparkling white Range Rover with tinted windows, it has flashing silver rims that spin within the wheels. A car built for shining in the sun and shoving into queues. I don't mind and let him in. With the window down and the music from other cars wafting in the air, it is a pleasant wait, something that we achingly long for all winter when the season deadens us against the prospect of ever idling in traffic again. Chicago is just a few minutes away and, within Chicago, that small nest of culinary excellence, Devon avenue, with its nihari and ras malai, its sambhar and dosai, its endless curlicues of fat golden jalebis. I fish for coins and quietly convince myself that this may, in fact, be bliss.

The line thins out and the Range Rover exits the booth. I slink up, ready to hand the attendant a fistful of glory. She smiles at me and tells me I don't need to pay.

"The guy ahead of you paid for you, for letting him cut in line."

I blink stupidly at her. "Sorry? What?"

"He paid for you. You're all set. Have a nice day!"

I wish I could say that I was smart enough to hand her the change anyway and pass the surprise on to the next person. We travel so much among strangers, who knows what will bring joy to another. Maybe there was a child in the car behind me and the parents would have used the opportunity to explain to him the importance of being kind. Maybe somebody could just have used a smile.

Instead, I thank the lady and drive off, letting the coins fall on to the passenger seat, ready to scurry back into their hiding places. An act of human kindness shouldn't have to be such a shock. Hopefully next time I'll remember to be more generous.


Blogger humairahumaira said...


2:13 AM  
Blogger Lily said...

Sometimes it is strange - today a stranger gave me a bag of ripe sweet cherries as a gift. Never expected - the sweetest kind.

12:05 PM  
Blogger ..aisha said...

: )

its sweet when someone purposely does an act of kindness.

I was walking to my shuttle today.. a lady asks me where she can buy bus tickets and i explain to her and tell her that the place is probably not open this early but "I have change".

Thinking she will take out a five so i can give her change for a bus ticket she takes out a toonie. ummm...i get confused and hand her a dollar 25 for the rest of the ride and she says oh thank you..and i go umm oh no worries.

I feel what you feel about smacking oneself in such situations : ).

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know just how you feel. Taken aback by an act of kindness, and unable to respond on the spur of the moment. Maybe it won't happen the next time. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

1:17 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Thank you all for the comments! The trick, I guess, is to just keep paying it forward.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Owl said...

When I started reading this, I thought it was one of the writings you borrow and post up. Not till you started mentioning Sabri nihari did I realize it was you. :) Once again, you really really should write more.

10:04 PM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Thank you, Owl. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Owl said...

It likely sounds a bit pretensions for me to claim the authority to make such declarations, but simply you are a writer. Whether you write much or little, it is quality. I suspect the doctoring takes up a lot of your time and energy, but I hope you save some for more writing, beyond the odd blog. It'll be a shame otherwise.

4:13 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Thank you, Owl!

2:47 PM  

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