If you have a heart, you can help anybody
When I began planning to move to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, to study, my mother worried about the uncertainty of living in a place that was so different from India. She worried particularly about a lack of jobs, cultural differences and racism.Despite these concerns, I came to New Zealand in July 2009. I found the place and people to be very gracious and supportive. When I arrived, I soon realized the importance of getting a job to supplement my living allowance.Determined to do this on my own, I spent a whole day going door-to-door asking for a job, but found little or no response. This became my daily routine after college for a few weeks.
One afternoon, I went into a building and asked if there were any opportunities. All of the people there were stunned by what I was doing and advised me not to continue that way. As I was about to leave, a man in the building, who had been listening to what the others had said, approached me and asked if I would wait outside. Fifteen minutes later he returned and asked me about my plans and encouraged me to stay positive. He then offered to take me to the Royal Oak suburb of Auckland to search for a job.I was a little baffled by this stranger but had a good feeling about him, so I went along. On the way, I realized I had run out of résumés, so the man stopped at his business partner’s office and made 15 extra copies. He gave me some tips on how to improve the way I dressed and how I spoke—before adding that if I ever needed anything, to give him a call.I distributed the résumés and went home feeling very satisfied. The next day I received a call from a store in Royal Oak offering me a job.
On a Sunday morning, I had gone out to get my son’s shoe repaired when it started raining. I was without an umbrella but managed to reach the cobbler’s roadside shack, showed him the shoe and, after a bit of haggling, settled on his fee. The young cobbler offered me a chair, put the shoe on his iron last and started stitching it.Just then, we saw a man pulling a heavily-laden handcart in front of the cobbler’s shop. He was moving uncomfortably on the slushy road, because a strap on one of his slippers was broken and dangling. As I sat watching, the cobbler paused, walked out, stopped the cart-puller and ordered him to remove his slipper.“Maaf kijiye [sorry], I have no money to pay you,” the cart-puller said, “so do not worry.” Hearing that, the cobbler looked annoyed. “It’s easy for me to help you now with just a broken slipper strap,” he said, raising his voice, “but it won’t be easy when you have a broken leg on a slippery road.” Only after he fixed the strap—without charge—and sent the cart-puller away did he resume my job. I sat thinking of how those who are well-heeled bargain with the poor cobbler over a few rupees, but the cobbler himself dealt so differently with someone who was even poorer than he was.
The Lost Letter
I was doing well as a department head in a Mumbai firm, but my relationship with the boss had become strained. Not wanting to put up with this, I resigned rather impulsively. But with no other job offer in hand, I soon became anxious.
Then, one morning, a Situations Vacant ad I spotted sought a person like me, and at an ideal location. I phoned an acquaintance, a placement agent, for tips. “I don’t think you fit the bill,” he opined. “They’d prefer MBAs with experience in multinationals, so don’t waste your time.” My wife disagreed. “Go by your instinct,” she said. “You’ve got nothing to lose.”
So, carrying my neatly typed CV and covering letter in an envelope on which I had written both ‘To and From’ addresses, I boarded a packed suburban train on a Monday morning to get to Mumbai’s GPO, where I could have it weighed, stamped and posted. Getting off the train, I joined the crowd of office-
goers out of the station and on to the street. Suddenly, I noticed, my envelope was missing!
I rushed back to the platform. The train was still there. A search of the compartment in which I travelled drew a blank. I waited impatiently for the train to pull away. It hadn’t fallen on the tracks either.
The logical thing to do was to go home, sit at my typewriter, make a new CV and covering letter and mail it. But losing the envelope was like a bad sign, so I gave up.
Three weeks passed. I received a letter that referred to my “lost” job application and inviting me for a meeting with the company’s managing director. I was stunned.
I soon got the job, and worked there as deputy general manager until I took voluntary retirement in 2002.
I still think about my application reaching its addressee. I imagine someone found it. He or she might have asked others on the train. Finding no claimant and realizing it would be important to a fellow citizen, the finder took it to a post office, stuck the stamps and mailed it. To that unknown friend, I want to say: Thank you for a little act that proved to be so big for me.