By Suresh Pattali
Life has good times and bad times. But I have consistently maintained, even in my trying days, the world is full of good people.
I have been friends with good and bad guys, and they have all turned out to be a cut above what society classifies as good. Some are born good. Some are good Samaritans by training. Some rise to the occasion when you least expect them to. Goodness is like the lotus which has its roots in the mud. I can bet my life. Here’s why:
Negotiating the labyrinth of dust tracks in Sharjah’s Bu Tina area, when crowds of faithfuls were walking home after their Friday prayers, I decided I’d better call off a chit-chat with my daughter over the phone. I placed the device back in the passenger seat of my car. Soon, I parked the station wagon a block away from my quarter and walked home carrying a few shopping bags and, of course, my phone — that’s what I thought I did.
In a few minutes, I realised that the shopping bags had all reached home safely but not the phone. I checked the empty carry bags, the cupboards, drawers, and all those secret places where I normally ‘hide’ my wallet. Wifey raised her eyebrows as I rummaged through the most unlikely places.
In the frantic moments that followed, wifey dialled my number a couple of times but the calls were not picked up. The next course of action was to trace my steps back to the car and check along the wayside and inside the vehicle. The almost-new Samsung Galaxy S8 was not to be seen anywhere — not under the seat, not under the floor mat, nor in the crevasse between the seat and the hand rest, and not even in the boot. I was sure I had not opened the boot for months, still I checked because rationale dissipates in times of desperation.
Almost convinced that the lost item should be lying around somewhere at home, we scoured the place once more. We left no stone unturned. The search was so intense that some bills that we had been hunting for, for a year, sprang out of nowhere.
“Was the phone on mute?” wifey asked.
“No, it rang in the car when daughter had called.”
“Were you still talking when you got off the car?”
“So it might have fallen off on the way home from the car.”
I refused to admit that I might have dropped it during my 75-metre trek home from the car. That would mean I am a careless idiot.
“Let’s go back to the car,” I said.
The eureka moment came when I combed the vehicle, like a forensic expert looking for murder clues. “Let’s switch on the engine and see if the phone is pairing with the car’s Bluetooth. If the phone connects, it means the handset is in the car,” I reasoned.
As I vroomed the engine, the monitor announced: “Phone connected. Audio connected. Importing contacts. Import successful.”
I was quick to blow my own trumpet. “This is why I always say men are more intelligent. Here’s the proof. Now call my number from your phone.”
The ‘Over the Horizon’ ringtone blared over the car speakers, rattling a couple of pussy cats sleeping on the doorsteps of a watchman’s room nearby. Another 10-minute search inside the vehicle yielded nothing. I reversed the vehicle and then took it forward as wifey craned her neck to see if the gadget had fallen under the vehicle.
We stood on the footpath trying to crack the mystery of the Bluetooth pairing. “Our home in the next block is in pairing distance. The phone must be at home only,” I ruled. Two more shuttles later, we were back home, scheming our next plan of action.
“Call etisalat and block your ISD (international subscriber dialling),” wifey warned as she kept calling my number.
Then her eyes widened. I could hear her heavy breathing as she said, “Hello, hello, I will give it to my husband.”
“How are you? This is my phone,” I said calmly.
“Where are you?” he asked in Hindi, more excited than wifey.
“In Discount building.”
“I am in the next block. I am the watchman there. Come down. There is a red car in front of my door.”
“That’s my car. Are there cats sleeping on your doorsteps?”
Yes, he said, as we literally sprinted towards the watchman’s room. He recognised us from our troubled looks.
“I didn’t find this. There’s an Indian family living in my building. He passed it on to me saying it’s an expensive phone, please find the owner,” Ismail Hussain from Chittagong, Bangladesh, said as I was reunited with my office on the move.
“I had kept the phone in the room when I went for lunch,” he said, solving the Bluetooth mystery. The distance between his room and my car was barely three metres.
Hussain has been working with his present employer for nearly 20 years. “This is my first job. I have been in this building for 13 years.”
This is not the first time Hussain has returned valuables. “I had even given back gold and cash to the aggrieved owners. They don’t belong to me. That’s what religion has taught me. I am not supposed to talk about my own good deeds,” he said, shaking my hands in response to my words of gratitude.
“Please convey my thanks and regards to the Indian family,” I requested him.
Hussain joins a hoard of good souls who have stood by me in my trying times, including Sarhan Salim Sheikh who once drove his car like an ambulance and saved my life by dropping me to the hospital in the nick of time. I owe my life to Sheikh who was a Godsend when I fell ill by the roadside. He paid my bills and walked away. Such angels live away from the limelight of social media where people love to hate each other.
I still believe there’s hope. The world is full of good people, some of who are made to do bad things. I still believe we are capable of love. Every night, I go to sleep dreaming of a world where love is the only religion, only language, only way of life and only currency. Let’s dream together.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
– John Lennon (Imagine)
Suresh is senior editor. He believes procastination ruins lives