Stories that restore your faith in humanity

Dear Helsinki,

This morning I woke up to the sound of your tears landing on the roof. I have never seen you as sad I have witnessed you this summer, but you never tell me what is wrong because you do not wish to distress me with what you think are trivial issues. You not telling me what makes you experience this lugubrious colour does not prevent me from feeling concerned for you, my darling. I care for you and I will always worry about you because in the grand scheme of things you are the only who has been there my entire life, even through the most abominable moments where I mistreated you. You never left me and you keep telling me you will never leave me, that you will always love me no matter how apart we would be. And I believe you.

Your melancholia was contagious and I am also wistful, wandering aimlessly in my mind. Irrational thoughts spiced with gloomy despair have gathered in my head to compete in the world championships but the opening ceremony has been delayed, because I am struggling to give in to the solicitous sorrow. I am not too sure how long I can resist any longer and perhaps that is the reason I write you this letter; I have been thinking about writing about love and compassion of strangers for so long, but there is always something else that requires my attention so I never got around it. I did not want to think of too much about the morose speculation that seems to have made a reservation in mind for this week, so I think right now is the perfect time to tell you a couple of moments that have strengthened my faith in humanity and made the world look so much more beautiful than she already is. To remind you of it. And to remind myself.

I do not think I told you but I work two jobs presently. The mornings I spend in the office working on human rights reports among other administrative and office work that requires little interaction with the people. After seven hours there I go to my father’s shop to do three hour shift; my dad has traveled to India and my mother is unable to stand in the shop for twelve hours every day so I agreed to help them out for three weeks my dad is absent. And I have come to enjoy so immensely because of the few customers that come every night.

We are complete strangers, but yet we ask how we have been doing during the day and get to know about each other’s life, work and even love. It is a wonderful feeling to learn about them; we have never asked names and we will probably never meet outside of the shop, but we have established a special relationship despite the limited space of our interaction. I cannot explain it well. But I am always learning something new about the few customers who spend just a minute longer to learn about me. And that, perhaps oddly, brings joy to me.

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I wrote you some time ago about the kindness of people who were unknown to me, but here are three other stories that have impacted me greatly. There are many more, perhaps even more groundbreaking than the ones I am about to share with you but at the moment these are the tales I keep closest to my heart. I hope you can tell me about your buoyant encounters with strangers because I am certain we all have experienced them. No matter how small the deed, moments like these nurture our souls with the magnanimous love that in the sullen times remind us of how amazing the world is. I think hearing your stories would give me strength to evict the morose speculation in my mind. But here are mine, my dearest.

1. Social Insurance Card

About one and half years ago I was the sickest I had been since I fell ill with malaria in Uganda. I rarely get very sick, but this time I was feeling my skin trembling as ghost bumps used it as a race circuit. My skin shivered like a leaf in a tree does when winter is knocking the door. I had to call the hospital and make an appointment and I got one for the same evening. I left the home in a rush and rather than taking public transportation I walked there; it was just in the city centre about twenty minutes walk away and I always walked, but foolishly I did not realise what an effort it would require me when sick. Because of walking slowly I was already late and started to rush the hospital, my mind filling with the worst thoughts (– what if, what if) and as I approached the building where my appointment was, I got a call from a unknown number. I answered, thinking that it is probably a telemarketer wanting to sell me an interior design magazines or tabloids and although I always try to be nice with them, this time I knew I would hung up as shiftily as possible.

But it was not a person trying to market me the newest issue of Home and Design. The caller told me had found my social insurance card on the ground and I panicked as I needed it for the appointment — I checked my pockets and wallets and indeed I no longer had it. He said he had discovered near the shopping centre that I had passed five minutes ago and I asked if he could just wait for me to pick it up and he agreed. I walked back to the place where he had found it, barely able to run due to my fever but when I met him, thanked him endlessly and he kept saying no problem, it was not a hassle at all and smiled kindly. It was a freezing winter so I apologised and apologised and attempt to repay him for his kind gesture, but he would not take it. He said he was just glad everything worked out in the end. The guy had actually made an effort to look up my number online (– and at the time it costed money to use phone services) and then waited for me to come get the card instead of leaving it someplace or completely ignoring it. Even though I was down with the worst influenza virus ever, it was one of the happiest moments I experienced the entire year last year.

2. The pain of goodbye

I had just spent perhaps the most intensely romantic week with my ex; after six months of not seeing each other we met again in Paris where he proposed me under the Eiffel Tower. The last hour of the week we spent in a train; me on my way to Amsterdam while he would get off in Brussels to change trains. When he exited the train and I was left alone, my heart was crushed, smashed and razed with God’s mighty hammer. I sobbed frantically, I cried and cried and cried and there was no end to it as the heart kept taking violent hits. The compartment was not empty, but I could not care less about what other people might have thought about my unruly weeping. The man I loved so much had just exited my life and I was about to move to the other side of the world, not knowing when I would meet him again and the thought of it agonised my collarbones, my lungs malfunctioned and my liver despaired for the first time in her life.

Then, out of nowhere, this man approached me with a small bottle of wine that you can buy in the train and gave it to me. He smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and told me all is going to be fine, I should drink the red wine, it will ease the momentary pain that will go away because soon enough I would meet him again. I just continued sobbing, attempting to find words to thank him but could not discover them, but it seemed he did not need to hear them as without me uttering anything he left after wishing me best of luck. He was not the only one who had noticed my pain — a few minutes afterwards a woman came to me a bottle of wine in her hand and shared the similar wisdom that the man had offered me. She said love conquers all and this time I was able to mutter words of gratitude even if my sobbing might have made it sound very incoherent. Although the hammer continued to demolish my heart until she would relinquish, I felt compassion and love from strangers who sensed my pain.

When we arrived to Amsterdam Central Station I caught her sight and even though we did not talk, I experience reassurance that it all will be fine. I do not think I would have survived the one hour train from Brussels to Amsterdam without their reaffirming consolation.

3. Packed like sardines in Delhi metro

It was my last night in Delhi and I had just done a considerable amount of shopping in just a couple of hours. You know the horror stories you hear about Asian metros being overcrowded and that there are actually guards at the platform to shove people in so the doors can be closed? Well I experienced that.

I arrived to Rajiv Chowk metro station, perhaps the most central station in Delhi, at the worst hour ever. I guess I would had survived the ride without an incident had I not been carrying four paper bags full of clothing and other souvenirs that I bought for no other reason than to make my home in Helsinki cozier. At the platform as the train opened its doors, I did not seriously have to even lift my leg as people behind me pushed me inside, it felt as if I had floated into the compartment packed like sardines. I am not able to describe you how it felt to be inside and I do not want to think about it.

The ride was just four stops, but those eight minutes were the most pressing and suffocating of my life and the worst was just about to happen. The metro arrived to Kasheme Gate, the largest station in Delhi and you can imagine that many sardines, including me, were getting out of at this very place. Once again I did not have to take even a step and I was pushed out with a force that I had never experienced before. As the wave of humans hit the platform, I fell at the platform and my bags broke into pieces, all the stuff falling all over the place and for a few seconds I thought I will be lynched at this very moment.

But then three, four men helped me up, hurried to save my glasses that were on the ground and as the wave ceased, they aided me in collecting all the things that have dropped. They repetitiously asked me if I was fine and offered to get me a bottle of water, some man went to double-check that nothing was left behind and then another man told me he would help me to carry the items upstairs so I could buy a new bag and put my stuff them in there. And the horrendous feeling that rushed in me and the hate I had formulated for Delhi during the ride, that all was replaced with a stronger faith in humanity.

I had just experienced the worst side of humans in the metro and I could had hang on the fact that people were so inconsiderate towards each other that they are literally capable of walking over each other, but the kindness of those strangers who helped me in the moment of crisis was exactly what I need not to hold a grudge. I do not think they will understand how much their indulgent actions impacted me. As I entered another crowded metro at the station with my new bags yet the same content, I could not help smiling. The world was beautiful because I had chosen to think of the tender benevolence of the strangers who helped rather than reliving the moment that had resulted in them helping me. In the end it was one of the best rides back home.

Yours,
Niti

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