Bits of Paper

Friday, November 01, 2019

                                                                       Bits of Paper

It was just another day at work, but today what was different was that I had decided to take the metro back home from the office. It was inspired by the thought that I should do something different that day and partially because my vehicle was not available to me. As I waited for the train at the station, I felt delighted about the clean surroundings and was quite pleased with how everyone was mindful of it. Inside the train, in the ladies’ coach, I selected a vacant cosy spot in one of the corners and stood there listening to my audio book. In my sight, I could see other ladies. As I looked at them, I could see that most of them were students returning from schools and college, and quite a few like me returning home after work.

On the second or third station, a bunch of ladies got into the train, and one of them stood resting against a pole opposite me, facing the other side. I had my gaze on the crowd, and my attention was on the audio book that I was enjoying.

The lady standing at the pole happened to dig into her handbag for something, and as she retrieved it along with it came a piece of paper that looked like a receipt and two chocolate wrappers that flew into the air and landed on the train floor. I saw that she had noticed what had happened, but she closed her bag and comfortably continued relaxing against the pole. I saw other faces glance there, and they too went back to their business like nothing had happened.

Suddenly in that sparklingly clean space, those three bits of paper lying there started to gnaw my heart, creating havoc in my mind. There was a part in me that wanted to tell the lady what I saw and ask her to pick it up, and a part of me was holding me back. I could visualise the woman snapping at me, or deny it was hers, or maybe feel hurt and offended. All I could see were pictures of misfortune in my mind’s eye, and me regretting my conversation with her an hour later. But today I decided to be brave, and in spite of feeling uncomfortable, I tapped on the ladies’ shoulder as she was looking into her phone. She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face as I told her what had happened and pointed to the floor. The lady gave a slight smile, picked up the sheet of paper, even thanked me, and continued to look back into her phone.

She did not bother to pick up the toffee wrappers!!!!

I was baffled, and I am sure it was all written on my face as another lady passenger in the other corner smiled at me, looking amused. 

But my mission was still not done as those toffee wrappers were still lying on the floor. And I was really not sure what to do. But this time, I just did not dare to press the issue. So, I continued looking at the wrappers and was fretting in my head. My mind was full of thoughts like, how can people behave like this, how can they not understand their responsibility, etc etc.

The next station arrived and that “non complying lady” as I saw her, got down and a new fresh batch of ladies walked in trampling those wrappers as they flew further away from my sight.

I was a bit disturbed about what I had witnessed and was not sure why it was nagging me. As I walked back from the station with the visuals of what had happened flashing in my mind, repeatedly,  I had a sudden realisation.

What stopped me from picking up those wrappers? It was so simple, was it not? Oh boy! What stopped me?

Probably it was my self-righteous self who wanted to call people wrong; maybe I felt why I should pick up after them? Perhaps I looked at it as someone else’s responsibility. It coud be I thought it would look silly, but how does that really matter?

But had I done that would it have made a difference?

It surely would have, as I could have helped keep the compartment clean. Also, maybe, just maybe, some school girl or some mother or anyone watching that would have been inspired to keep their surroundings clean

 I wondered rather than feeling upset at people and labelling their behaviour, what if I could focus on what matters most to me and do what I can do rather than wait for someone else.  I also felt humbled as I realised that I too may be doing certain behaviours that may not be useful as a citizen of my country or as a human, and don’t even keep a check on that. I felt a sense of liberation in my body as I made a resolution to myself, saying I am going to keep it simple by contributing to what I feel strongly about in the tiniest way possible.  And, yes, to have fun being that way…. loads of it!!!

What do you think :)