One evening, while waiting on the platform to get into the train home, I noticed a lady waiting for the same train. Since it was only two of us in that section of the platform and with nothing much to do, I thought of striking a conversation with her as is my usual habit with fellow passengers. The look she gave when she saw me smile was a tad forbidding and immediately with my smile wiped off, I decided to keep to myself. From where I stood on the platform, I could see that she was physically challenged as she had a stick with an arm-brace to support her while walking and standing, However, I could not figure out the extent of her condition.
A train soon came by and she got in. I hopped into the next train, found a place to stand, pulled out the book I was carrying and was completely absorbed in reading it.
|Image courtesy : Google|
At one of the stops, I heard a female voice nearby, scolding someone loudly. I looked up and was surprised to see the same lady in the carriage I was in. She had got in at that stop and that voice belonged to her. She was scolding a fellow passenger - a gentleman who was standing right next to me. It appeared from the tirade that when the train had jerked forward after the doors closure, he had extended his hand instinctively to steady this lady. Apparently the lady had not received this gesture all that well. Someone vacated a seat for her and immediately upon sitting down, she even whipped out her phone and took pictures of this gentleman and threatened to sue him for molestation.
|Image courtesy : Google|
I say gentleman because, if he was a molester he had plenty of chances to molest me or another girl who was standing right in front of him. But he didn't, and he certainly wasn't waiting for this lady. I felt sad for him because he was unnecessarily getting berated for his instinctive kind gesture. After apologizing profusely to her, he just stood there silently allowing her to berate him & take his pictures too!
This entire incident shocked me because people giving & receiving a steadying hand is quite common as the trains do lurch sporadically and I just could not understand her intense anger. During such lurches, I have seen people shooting out their arms instinctively to protect a child from falling down from his seat if she/he is not holding onto the guard rail; same with adults who are standing without holding onto the grab pole or are about to settle down in their seats. Why was this gesture misconstrued by the lady!
Tried my best to understand the lady's reaction. Maybe she thought that he was really molesting her or that he was showing pity on her (which no one wants). Maybe she just didn't want that steadying hand and could have managed to steady herself. Maybe she had a bad day or maybe her self respect dictated her reaction. At the same time, felt that instead of the tongue lashing she gave him, maybe if she had just said, "Thanks, but I can manage by myself", the situation would have been managed well. Also, that especially after this incident, he might think twice or thrice before he lends a helping hand or he may even look the other way when someone is genuinely in need of support.
It's been months since this incident took place and it's unforgettable. Even to this day I wonder what is the right thing to do in such situations, so that the sensibilities of a physically challenged person are not offended and a person's instinctive kind gesture towards him/her is not misconstrued.
Kill with kindness or kill the kindness? What is the middle path? Would love to know.