Kindness is the superhero we all need – in 2022, and beyond…

I have always believed that the best gift that you can give anyone, including yourself, is kindness. It has such beauty, grace and so much power that it should be driving force of all our relationships, and indeed dominate a majority of our interactions with everyone in our lives. As 2021 comes to an end, I cannot emphasize the role being kind has played in a year that was marked by loss and grief across the world, and the role it will continue to play in the years to come. And in doing so, I list down some of the kindness I have encountered and some that I have experienced via the stories shared with me.

There is spider at the centre of his web. And you can see muted, faded greens in the background.
Weave a web of kindness

“We will get your mother vaccinated.”

As many of you are aware, my mother is widowed, 80 plus, legally blind and lives on her own in Baroda, Gujarat. I am an only child and I live far away from her, here in Dublin, Ireland. When India started its vaccination drive for Covid-19, the process to get a slot or reserve one was a little chaotic and it was very difficult for me to arrange that for my mother. The president of the housing society where my mother lives took it upon himself to ensure that my mother got her two doses on time. He took her, along with my mother’s helper, in his car and not only made certain that she got her jabs in time, but also carefully selected slots and vaccination centres where she would not be faced with massive queues and teeming crowds. Also, when she fell sick later (non-Covid), he was in touch with me, asking me not to panic and book a flight but to keep documents in order, documents that may be needed to take an emergency flight home. What uncle (as I call him) and his wife (aunty) have done for me and my mother is beyond words, and will stay with me till the end of my life.

“No, the lunch is on me. You are my guest.”

One afternoon, I was returning from a grocery run from the Stillorgan Village shopping centre when I saw an elderly lady picking up litter just a few blocks away from where I live. I walked a few steps but decided to turn back. “Hello,” I said to her, my powder-blue mask still on my face. “Thank you for picking up all the rubbish but you don’t look like you have been employed by the local council.”

“No,” she smiled. “I live nearby and used to volunteer at a lot of places, including museums but with the Covid-19 situation, I now devote my time at the vaccination centre and when it’s not raining, I like to venture out and keep our area clean.”

It turned out that she was a retired physician and we spent close to half an hour chatting about various things. While saying goodbye, we exchanged phone numbers. Two weeks after I had been doubly vaccinated, she sent me a text asking if we could meet. We met at the Stillorgan Shopping Centre, and I thought we would have a cup of coffee. “Would you mind if we go to a nice place nearby?” she suggested.

At the GAA (The Gaelic Athletic Association) club, the waitress ushered us inside with a smile; she seemed to know the physician very well. We both ordered grilled sandwiches with a drink each, and she asked me about my family and friends back home in India. She also asked me about what interested me the most (libraries, art galleries and museums) and we talked about the past few months, all the lockdowns and forced isolation. She was an attentive and patient listener; giving me her full attention and was most understanding when I talked to her about my anxieties regarding my elderly mother.

Then, when the time came to pay the bill, she simply went ahead and paid for us both. When I protested she said, “No, I asked you out as my guest. The past months have been so hard on everyone; and should you want to visit a museum or an art gallery, let me know.” I was lost for words but at the same time, felt very cared for, especially because I was living so far away from home. It wasn’t about a free lunch but the fact that the world was full of good people who did things for others without an ulterior motive or expecting something in return.

“It will be okay, Prerna, don’t worry.”

I have a friend that I made at my first workplace (The Times of India). I have known her since 2003. Over the years, she has been there for me on every single occasion that I needed her – when we lost my father, when I got engaged, when I was fretting over what the results of a particular MRI would bring for me…

But in the past year, and the year before that, her love and compassion has really held me tight through multiple challenges and situations.

She has heard me out, listened to a number of my worries and anxieties with love, immense kindness and compassion. I cannot articulate what a gift that is – to be heard and listened to without judgement, opinion and to be met with so much love and understanding. She has also been incredibly helpful in a number of ways – checking up on my mother, spending time with her, running small errands for her (getting my mother winter socks, thermal wear, and even replenishing her stock of undergarments).

When my mother fell down and had a fall, and I was very worried for her, my friend went and checked up on her, and gave me updates on how my mother was recovering. And this in spite of her being very caught up herself, with her mother’s cataract surgery and tending to multiple things on her home and professional front. Once during the pandemic, she stood outside the compound wall of our tenement and my mother stood inside safely – she had found a way to check up on my mother keeping in mind the Covid protocols.

Her friendship, kindness and love is like a fixed deposit you make in a bank. With every year, her love grows, her kindness multiplies and it gives me ‘returns’ of a kind that can never be repaid or calculated.

“Kindness is a panacea for the pandemic”

As the second deadly wave of Covid-19 held India in its vicious grip, I wanted to do a little something to capture the incidents of kindness that many people encountered during the pandemic. In doing so, I spoke to individuals who had all, in their own individual ways, experienced great compassion and kindness – from food packets delivered to their home without any expectation of payment or reimbursement, to neighbourhoods trying to put together a system in place so that Covid-19 affected families had groceries and food at their doorsteps, and doctors providing treatment and advice free of cost – and in turn, had been deeply impacted by what they had experienced in a time of chaos and loss.

These stories are documented on The Good Story Project’s website and are testament to the fact that kindness is really the superpower we all need in our lives. (Links to Lakshmi Ajay’s story, Ayanti Guha’s account, and Rishabh Lalani’s experience as well.)

As one writer shared: “Which brings me back to the original question – is there a Hindi word for kindness? Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t. It doesn’t matter. From the doctor who treated my family for free to the folks in the Jain mandir who gave us nutritious meals – it is our common humanity, our innate kindness that held us together. There was no reason for people to open their hearts at a time when all of us were stretched, but everyone still did.” This.

It is our common humanity and our innate kindness that has held us together, and should also do so in the years to come.

Whatever we do with our lives, the setbacks and losses we suffer, we should not stop being kind.

For kindness is a gift that never stops giving; and this holds true for both the receiver and the giver. It is one gift that I hope to receive in abundance and give out in abundance too, in the year to come.

(P.S. This is not an exhaustive list. There are many kind and compassionate people around us, and I have benefited from the compassion of so many friends and strangers…)

One thought on “Kindness is the superhero we all need – in 2022, and beyond…

  1. A very good post to end the year with. Kindness comes naturally to many and I ,too, have received it many a time, often from strangers. Passing it on is how we can repay kind folk.
    Wishing you a happy 2022, Prerna!

    Liked by 2 people

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