There is a saying in my native language Urdu that everyone tells you the way to Delhi, no one walks with you. I always thought it was a very rude generalization to call everyone selfish and self-centered. The truth of the matter is that there are still a few good men and women that make the world beautiful.
I have been struggling to understand people all my life. In times of dire need there have been three kinds of people. One who refused to help at all, second those who mislead and gave hope of something they were not moving a finger to cause and the last but rare kind were people who were truly altruistic and helped genuinely. I have always met the first two kinds in abundance but only one of the last kind is enough in any ordeal. And interestingly enough, as I am unable to completely understand the liars, cheats and bigots, I am also unable to comprehend the compassionate, the kind and the merciful. I guess, they are intrinsically who they are. Roses spread fragrance to all irrespective of the people who tend to them or those who pick them off their lifeline; and the thorns prick even the hands that tend loving care to them.
Today as I rejoice one of the biggest achievements in my life, I smile upon the generosity and kindness of a dear friend who did not only give me sound advice for my future journey, but also held my hand and lead me into the initial miles of despair, fear and loneliness. Where everyone else were magnanimous enough to point out the ordeals and the obstacles, he chose to show me my strengths and virtues. I have stepped onto a new journey of life and I realize that if I want to be exceptional I will have to surround myself with people like him and also continue to be one of his kind.
In my life, I have always helped anyone who asked, irrespective of any differences between us. One of the most proudly worn medals of my past are the memories of rivals and adversaries seeking aid in dire need for themselves or their families. I have always humbly kneeled in their aid, even when their requests were unreasonable. If a friend had made the same demand I would have simply refused. I am humbled by the honor they give me by sharing their weakness. While anyone else would have expected ridicule from an opponent, they saw my humanity greatly exceeded any personal opinions and gave me the opportunity to serve even when my heart disagreed. I often think of all those people in days when I am downcast and seek kindness from God as I have shown to his people. Never has He ever let me down. I have faced more trials and tribulations than most of the people I know, but I have also seen more miracles and blessings than all of them.
Of the remaining two types of people I prefer someone saying no I cannot help or I will not help. That ends a painful conversation and one is spared the embarrassment of repeated queries. They are like bitter medicine which leaves a temporary corrupt taste in the mouth but eventually one does not feel bad about the refusal. Like any crossroad we chose not to take in life, those people are forever removed from our lives and our memories.
However, the worst are the ones who make false promises and claim to be friends. Actually they are deriving pleasure and strength from our weakness and repetitive requests of assistance. All they do is come up with one excuse after another and dilatory tactics just to keep you engaged and hoping for help that will never arrive. Like pond scum these people are bottom feeders and cling to the distress of others for their own sadistic rejuvenation. As I write these lines I remember many faces of this category of people. I have travelled halfway across the world and I am truly awed at the commonality between this group across all ages, races and cultures. The cascade of lies and false promises followed by lame, half-witted excuses. And the cherry on the cake is the favors they ask in return for pretending to assist you. I have finally understood that only one treatment should be given to all these people. They should be ignored and forgotten and left to their devices. Nothing shatters a self-centered, megalomaniac as much as being condemned unheard. Your silence echoes in their minds forever.
Today, I write these lines for the benefit of people like myself who were brought up believing in the intrinsic goodness in others. It is a life lesson I have learnt after too much heart ache and head ache. Do not take people for granted. When someone is kind to you, remember that kindness is not synonymous with stupidity. Reciprocate it with honor, generosity, and gratitude. When someone is unkind to you, do not fool yourself by providing a psychological or conditional excuse for him. When someone chooses to ignore, harm or hurt you, never allow misbehavior to become a habit. Do not cross oceans for people who will not cross puddles for you. Despite meeting all kinds of despicable people, I still do not believe in an eye for an eye. Even today when I walk away from someone’s life, I leave with kindness. That person may not deserve this kindness but I am kneeling in humility to God for making me so different from those people and giving myself a reason to smile years later. I have never regretted this magnanimity.
Last but not the least, be very wise in the people you surround yourself with. You do not need a crowd of people in a lifeboat, likewise you do not need more than a handful in your private inner circle. They should be the people who will die for you as you will for them. Pick, sow and nourish those ties with tender care. Make sure you read characters before you believe in claims of love or sincerity. Characters seldom change, they are merely revealed in hardships and in ecstasy. I have had my heart and soul scorched by trusting people to be better than they were. I expected thorns to be roses and hurt myself. Now I know that if I want perfect blossoms I will still be hurt by a myriad of thorns but I will not return empty handed.
The road to Delhi is long and tedious, but it is the only way you will distinguish clearly between false and true friends. When you stand knee deep in a quagmire, miraculously people reveal themselves. Many will stand back and watch you go down and if you are lucky you will find the ones who will not only lend you a helping hand but will risk their lives to save yours. Holding that hand, come out of the quicksand and never go within ten mile radius of people who avoided you like the plague when you needed them. And of course, trust in God. His plan is much, much bigger and better than what you thought. Just pray, work and smile, and one day the thousand mile journey will be over and you will be left with heroic stories to tell your grandchildren. Little will they know that the protagonist is you in all of your stories… welcome to Delhi!