Can’t Stop Counting Blessings!
It takes me an hour and a half daily to reach work. I reached my usual bus stop, and found it unusually crowded. There was a big group of uniformed kids and their mothers, another group of college-going teenagers and a few others like me who did not fall under either category. I glanced at my watch – almost 2:30pm! It was odd to find so many people waiting for that particular bus at this time. By the looks on their faces, they’d been waiting a very long time. I’ve been travelling at that very time every single day, but normally I encounter only two or three people waiting for the bus. “Something is definitely wrong today”, I thought.
I was right. Just as I was thinking of asking someone what the problem was, one of the mothers spoke up. “This is ridiculous! It’s been 2 hours! The kids are hungry, they’re tired, so are we. My older daughter has to go to her tuition at 4 o’ clock. I still have to make rotis and serve her lunch before that. How on earth am I going to reach in time?!” She looked harrowed and anxious. The lady standing next to her replied, “It will soon be time for my mother-in-law’s medical appointment. She can’t go by herself. I’ll have to ask my husband to take a half-day at work and accompany her to the clinic. I definitely won’t make it in time.”
The story soon became clear. The bus which usually comes in every half an hour or so, had not made an appearance for more than 2 hours now. Everyone had been waiting in the rain, since it was the only bus going to that particular part of the city. The kids were hungry; it had been hours since they’d eaten their tiffins. The daily schedules of the mothers had been disturbed. These weren’t uber-rich people – they were simple, middle-class folk who had hundreds of things to take care of, on whom many people depended for their sustenance and comfort. And now they were stuck at a muddy bus stop, soaked to their skin in the incessant rain, with no other option than to wait. They were obviously disgruntled.
After another 15 minutes of grumbling (by the mothers), crying (by the hungry children), gossiping (by the college kids) and helpless grunts (from people like me), we saw an AC bus coming in. A kid piped up, “Mummy! AC bus! Let’s take it!” The mother looked worried. “The AC bus ticket fare is expensive. I don’t have that much money,” she said. Another lady answered, “Yes, but if we don’t take this one, there is no telling when the next will come. We must get home.” “But how am I to buy a ticket without enough money?” asked the first lady. “I have some extra cash. Use that. Return it tomorrow,” said a third lady. As the bus came closer, we could see it was packed. “It’s full,” someone exclaimed. “Can’t help it. We have to get on,” someone answered. As soon as the bus stopped in front of us, most of the mothers and school kids barged in. The bus drove away. 5 minutes later, a non-AC bus came by. This one was so packed that people were hanging out the door at the back. The rest of the school kids and college kids squeezed into that one. I waited.
A couple of minutes later another AC bus came by. This one had just one vacant seat. I got on and sat down with a sigh. The coolness of the air-conditioner soothed my frayed nerves. I gulped down some water and closed my eyes. And I said a great, big “Thank You” to the Almighty, the Universe and the world at large. Without realizing it, I had begun counting my blessings…
It’s a sheer miracle that ever since I inculcated this habit of saying Thank You to the Universe for at least one thing every day, I’ve begun to notice so much to be grateful for!
I found myself thinking about those little kids. They must’ve been crushed between all those tall adults. After a long day at school, they’d have to stand all the way home for an hour and a half. And those poor mothers must have woken up at the crack of dawn, made sure everyone was well-fed and on time for their respective jobs, tended to their in-laws and other daily chores. They still had a hundred things to do once they reached home without any respite. And they too probably went home standing in that terrible bus for so long.
I thought of that lady who didn’t have enough money. How embarrassing it must have been for her to admit that she couldn’t afford a bus ticket. That one AC ticket probably made a huge difference to her monthly budget. She’d have to make many sacrifices over the coming days to make up for that difference.
I, on the other hand, did not have to squeeze myself into that overcrowded, suffocating bus. I could choose to wait for a relatively empty bus to come along. I had the freedom to choose an AC bus over a non-AC one without having to worry about the ticket cost. I didn’t have to worry about my family being hungry if I didn’t get home on time. I realized how privileged I was to lead the kind of life I had. I may not be a celebrity or a millionaire. I may not afford the many luxuries that people my age and of my educational background enjoy. But I have the luxury of waiting… the luxury of choice… the luxury of thinking of only myself. I’d never thought of them as ‘luxuries’ before, but I do now, specially since I’ve begun to look through the lens of gratitude. And for them, I am eternally grateful.
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