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The sensitive stranger

March 6, 2012

This is an anecdote of an unpleasant memory that has now turned into a pleasant one.  Why? Read on.

I was in Grade10 and I lived in Mumbai at that time. Sometimes, I feel like a refugee, my mother tongue is Oriya, my birth place is Andhra Pradesh, I have lived in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and I am married to a Malayali! Well, there is always a bright side. And for me it was learning new languages, making new friends, and eating delicious food peculiar to these places. In Mumbai, the language I learnt was Marathi, a very good friend I made was Jay and the food I loved was Pav Bhaji!

In Mumbai, I lived in an apartment complex with 4 floors, four flats in each floor and an average of three kids per floor. Our apartment complex was a perfect example of national integration. We had neighbors from all over India.

There was a playground inside the apartment complex. At 6 every evening, after finishing homework and evening snacks, a swarm of kids assembled there. And yes, Jay and I were a part of that gang. How silly it feels now to think of the fights we had as children! Although fighting as a child was simple – fight one day and forget the next day.

One day, after Grade 10 exams were over, there was no excitement left in life. So my gang and I decided to do something exciting. Jay was not part of this mischief, as always. All the members of the gang walked to the terrace of the building. The terrace could be described as a narrow rectangle with a water tank in the middle. It had two slopes at each end. One end of the slope was well inside the walking area of the terrace. I will call it – the safer side of the terrace. The purpose of the slopes was to drain water from the incessant Mumbai rain. But with a bunch of crazy kids, you never know how it could be used.

Imagine this – a girl standing on safer side of the terrace with her arms spread and saying, ‘Yay! I feel like a bird. I can see the whole world from here. ’ My friends and I took turns to go up on the slope one minute, and down the next. It was crazy but we were a safe distance away from the danger of falling down. While I was displaying my acrobatic skills, the other members of the gang were applauding and cheering. They were as mature as me at that time! (Sarcasm intended) We finally achieved the excitement we wanted. But it was short-lived.

Someone banged hard on the terrace door which was closed. My sister opened the door and we saw a woman, panting, full of sweat and gasping for breath. She had just climbed five floors. She was a complete stranger to all of us. We had never seen her before. But we could see the expression on her face. It was evident that she was angry. But why?

Mrs. Stanger first struggled to catch her breath and then yelled, ‘Who was jumping up and down from the slope?  Where is that girl?’ My heart almost missed a beat and I thought, ‘Oh dear! This is why she looks so angry!’ I had no choice but to own my mistake when the others in my gang gave me accusing stares. I said, ‘Aunty, that was me. We were having fun. Look, there is no danger,’ and I pointed to the safer side of the slope which in no way was dangerous. But Mrs. Stranger’s mood was definitely dangerous. She was in no mood to listen. Her volume increased a few decibels. She said, “What happened! Are you crazy? What were you doing? I live at least a few buildings away. I was standing on my terrace and I suddenly saw someone jumping up and down the slope at a distance. I got so worried. Take me to your parents.’ My house was on the fourth floor, a floor below the terrace but the walk down with her felt like an eternity. She was fuming with anger. And I knew, ‘take me to your parents’ implies DANGER SIGNAL!

Scene at home – My mother was preparing dinner and my father had just returned from the office after a tiring travel in the lifeline of Mumbai- local trains. How did my parents REACT? My parents gave her a hot cup of tea so that she could cool down! What did my parents tell ME? Well, I leave that to your imagination! At that moment, I hated her. We all thought she had spoiled our fun. It was an unpleasant memory for all of us.

But we missed something crucial. She was angry because she was concerned. She was a complete stranger. But in spite of that, she had walked a long distance as she thought someone’s life was in danger. She cared so much for a complete stranger. I still remember her face and I would wish to say thank you to her!

The unpleasant memory has now turned to a pleasant one! I now fondly recollect “Mrs. Stranger” as a person who cared for a stranger.

Have you done anything crazy when you were a kid?

Has any sensitive stranger ever helped you?

Have a great week ahead!


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  1. that was a vivid narration 🙂 I could imagine the scene as I read through…

    I did crazy things secretively 😛 I was probably 3 or 4 yrs old, when my mother took me to her office (she works for India Post) and got me lot of jamun fruits to keep me busy. I finished them quickly and when I went out to throw the seeds, I saw the big red post dabba. I got this strange idea and decided to execute it. I put all the seeds in a sheet of paper and posted it 😛 Well, after putting it in, I realized that it was probably not such a great idea after all. But I din’t know how to take it out! I waited for the postman uncle to open the post box to ensure that my posted jamun seeds had made no harm 🙂

  2. Ingrid permalink

    Hmmm…crazy things I’ve done when I was a kid? I have no idea what to start with…does jumping over the wire of a steam iron count? Grandma was ironing clothes, and I wanted to play jump rope…eventually I got burned on the arm by it, such painful memory, and thank god it didn’t leave a scar…

    • Hi Ingrid, Your act sounds crazier than mine! 🙂 And yes, I am happy it didn’t leave a scar.

  3. Prasad Chitgopkar permalink

    Well expressed Sushree, in fact, i was present on the terrace & have been witness to this crazy act of yours 🙂

    • Heyyy Prasad, Oh wow, do you remember the aunty? 🙂

      • Prasad Chitgopkar permalink

        No, i do not remember her or her face, but i certainly remember a lady coming from another building, fuming at your crazy act, & if i’m not wrong, she was also very critical of that crazy act before your parents, & what was to follow was certain 😀

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