Now that’s a carpool! The sun was shining today, a rarity during India’s rainy season of July and August, so my kids and I took a rickshaw to a swimming pool. Our driver, Loki let us know that he’d need to be back in time to pick up nine children when school let out. The school happened to be directly across the street from our apartment, so I asked if I could meet him there to meet the children and take a photo of them in his rickshaw, to which he happily obliged.
After listening to the schoolchildren recite their closing prayer they emerged from the school and one by one made their way to the rickshaw. They happily climbed in with sparkling eyes and bright smiles, and were very eager to meet me and tell me about their day, studies, names and ages. Their ages ranged from six to twelve and they studied English, the local language of Kannada, math, science, and drawing. The older ones had a test on nutrients in food, which made their day a little less positive, but they were all still so joyous. I found them bringing out a smile, a sing-song tone in my voice, and a warm feeling of goodness in my heart.
This reminded me of an incredible experience I had on my first trip to India in 2003. It was my very first day in Mysore and I took a rickshaw from my hotel to the yoga shala to register. On my return trip, I took my wallet out to pay, and left the entire thing, including $500 cash, my credit cards and passport on the seat, which I didn’t realize until the driver pulled out of the parking lot and into busy traffic. My heart began to race as I considered all the possible outcomes. I frantically ran into the hotel and explained to the manager what had happened. He told me to come with him and we ran outside. He jumped onto his motorbike, and I threw myself over the back of it.
He asked where I had gotten into the rickshaw and when I told him we quickly made our way to the stop by the yoga shala. Talk about riveting. It’s enough to drive slowly through the busy streets of Mysore, and another completely to speed through them on the back of a motorcycle without a helmet. I held on for dear life.
We arrived at the rickshaw stop and the manager told the other drivers that we were looking for a driver who might have my wallet. That’s all the information I had. A few of them excitedly answered and the manager simply translated, “wait, he’s picking up children from school and is coming.” Sure enough, about 15 excruciatingly long minutes later, the rickshaw pulled up full of smiling, laughing children. He unlocked a special compartment, reached inside and pulled out my wallet completely in tact. Overwhelmed with emotions of joy, gratitude, and humbleness, I actually started crying.
This has been my experience with the locals in India. Yes, I have had a couple of not-so-positive moments, which of course I’ve had in other countries as well, including my own. But overall I have found the people here to be welcoming, kindhearted, and honest. Being in the presence of these beautifully spirited children today uplifted me, and it was a nice reminder of the goodness and kindness we’re all born with in our hearts, here in India, and around the world. It is always there. We just have to remember to practice it.