For a while now, I’ve been grappling with the existential question. The one that all middle-aged men toy with. What’s the point of it all? Why run if you’re not a rat? Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or is it the sort of pot you lower your pants into?
While I haven’t found my answer and while the search continues, the quest has thrown up a diamond along with the dirt. I’ve discovered, what perhaps to me, is the clearest compass of them all.
Just one word. Not as big as compassion and not as bandied as love. Just regular, everyday, ordinary kindness.
Except it is anything but ordinary.
Kindness, because of its innate softness, invites sneer. It appears passive, indolent, lacking in action. It doesn’t sweat, it doesn’t swear and it doesn’t carry swag. It’s not sexy. It walks up with a gentle “excuse me”, it whispers in a room full of voices, it hugs without fanfare and it leaves without so much as a short goodbye.
All while changing the world.
You see, kindness is powerful precisely because it is all-giving and doesn’t give a fuck in return. And it is humanly impossible to remain unaffected by unselfish goodness. It is hard to remain unmoved by something that is pure; pure because it wasn’t mandated by protocol, demanded as right or necessary to begin with.
When you’re kind to someone – to people you don’t need to be kind to – your maid, the security guard, the auto driver and the guy selling chaat at a street corner, you ever so briefly, lift the day’s crushing heaviness off their shoulders. You make them forget that they’ll be going back to their bleak lives where sacrifice is the norm as is disenchantment. And when you’re kind to someone in power – kind and not obsequious or servile – you reveal that you’re not in awe of designation and that you’re equal to him or her as a human being.
I try and practise kindness. Why I say “practise” is because kindness is a choice. The idea that the junior cracked that was better left un-cracked. You can choose to look beyond the result and see how hard he/she tried. The dinner that the wife cooked that wasn’t the best. You can choose how to make her feel. The waif at the traffic signal that you chose to give a bigger note to, instead of the coin that clinked at your fingertips. Yes, kindness is a choice. And when you practise it long enough, kindness becomes instinct.
Fact is, kindness is transformative. It is therapeutic. And best of all, it is also tax-free. There’s the old adage of “people not remembering what you said but how you made them feel”. What they’ll remember the most is your kindness, or the lack of it.
There’s another alliterative ‘T’ that kindness is. Kindness is tough. It’s very hard to be kind because it is so much easier to be a natural born asshole like most of us are. It takes guts to treat others like how you'd like to be treated – and not like how they are treating you. Thus kindness is not for the weak. And in pursuing it, one grows strangely, immeasurably strong.
There’s one more fact – I was wrong. Kindness does give back. Kindness is Karma. When you’re kind, you not only make others feel better; you feel awesome yourself. Kindness is also positivity. For one cannot be negative while being kind.
So cultivate kindness. Shoot yourself up with it. Down it like beer. Smoke it like pot. Make it a bad habit. But one that you’re very good at.
Lastly, kindness is contagious. If you happen to catch it, do spread it. The world has enough misery without needing your unique dose of cruelty.
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