Sometimes in life we do things we do not understand and yet they deliver positive results. At a shallow level of analysis, the reasons underlying this can usually be found in some commonplace answers, everyday rules, basic values and perhaps a way of life that has been adopted not by choice but by old habit.
It’s only much later in life that we may realize the profound lesson behind some of these events and the immense learning it can deliver to us on our difficult yet determined way to success. Let me share a personal experience with you that follows these lines.
Many years ago, when I was a child, I experienced a strange relationship which I did not give much thought to, but now I see it for what it was and ever since I have realized the lesson it delivered, it has changed my life. I was the eldest of two children in a small family in Mumbai INDIA, where the family consisted my parents and also my ailing grandmother – my father’s mother, his dad having passed on many years before. It also included an aging unmarried uncle, Dad’s eldest brother, who though a hardy veteran of life in all it’s forms, had experienced terrible setbacks and had retreated to the safety of the family, a shelter from an unfriendly and hostile world.
My mother, was the perfect backbone the family needed. Talented and skilled in art, she set aside her career to look after grandma, and this lasted a long and arduous fifteen years. She was the rock in the family, on which dad could build the home. She was full of life, always busy, always loving, caring to the core, and for us kids, a safe haven to run to in times of trouble. In her arms, and they were strong yet immensely comforting arms affording incredible security, we could find great sanctuary from any form of danger. Mother was invincible. She was later to hold the family together with my father through such terrifying times, that this invincibility was often battered, but never gave way.
Between our two parents we learned several life lessons, not the least being how to hold a family and faith together in violent turbulence. The smaller lessons are what this note is all about.
We schooled quite a distance from where we lived in Mumbai’s northern suburbs, about 15 km away, and with traffic and transport frequency being what it was around 35 years ago, mother took on the task of ferrying us back and forth, the school not having a regular bus service of it’s own. Poor experiences with a neighbouring school’s bus which left us stranded in a monsoon flood in waist deep water left her so furious, she decided that her responsibilities must include this very difficult ordeal.
To regulate life somewhat, mother chose a bus route that took us directly to school without any changeover midway. This meant being exactly in time for the bus and this being a ring route, we also caught the very same bus on the way back home. So we became familiar faces being regular passengers on a generous part of the route itself. Mother as usual would prompt us to greet the conductor as we boarded the bus and thank the driver as we disembarked. We would then wave to the bus driver and conductor as the bus eased away from the bus stop.
The bus conductor was almost priestly in his disposition and demeanour. Silver haired and dignified, he would return our greeting with his own blessing for the day or the rest of it, while the driver, a burly sunburned toughie with a walrus like moustache , would break into the most delightful smile as we thanked him in chorus and later waved him goodbye.
And so life went on, for a couple of years, before I finally mustered the courage to assure mother that I could take care of my younger brother and steer ourselves and back form school safely, given the regimen we had established. Skeptical of success , but now terribly overburdened, mother made a few dry runs with us to check our navigational and other competences. She also asked the bus conductor and driver duo to “keep an eye” on us. A request they quickly agreed to comply with. But could you really expect a busy public transport employee, harassed by his very work, barely managing to keep his own equilibrium on even keel, to keep this promise? Well, we were in for a surprise.
Like clockwork we managed to make the daily circuit without any incident worth mentioning or remembering. Life was settling down to an even regularity, as far as transport was concerned. Till one day this took a big jolt.
The school principal decided to lecture the school, for ten long minutes on some moral values of life after the evening prayer at the end of day. This meant that our timetabled life was now going to be turned on it’s head – there was no way for us to reach our bus on time. After the lecture, scrambling for freedom, all the kids exploded onto the road at the traffic junction just across the gate. I didn’t know what to do — until I saw an amazing sight:
Amidst the melee stood a red bus, unmindful of the green signal to go, and the jarring honking of the traffic behind. Puzzled, I looked up, and saw the familiar great big burly face decorated with a walrus mustache, followed by half the burly body, leaning right through the driver’s window calling us to board. Grabbing my brother by the hand, I raced across and boarded from the front, to be greeted with a loud cheer from the passengers, and a huge grin from the driver and a visibly relieved conductor. Thanking him profusely, we spent the remaining journey being grateful for his rescue.
The memory soon passed in the flurry of days, until a few years ago when I read about Emotional Banking. This concept is so simple and so real. It simply states that just like a financial bank, we deposit and borrow from people we deal with everyday. The account we use if the one we open with each and everyone we meet and work with.
Simply put, we need to have a minimum deposit and keep filling in the account to make it work. It helps when we have to make withdrawals. The deposits are simple ones, like acknowledging the other, common courtesies, keeping the small promises we make, being sincere in helping, being sincere in owning up to mistakes made and apologizing with intent to repair the damage done and so on. The small stuff. But all this has to be made unconditionally without plans for withdrawals. No strings attached.
When withdrawals occur, like shortness of temper, demands on time and work priorities, abruptness with courtesies, anger mismanaged, and all the roughshod treatment we dish out liberally in a day, the unconditional deposits we have banked allow us to save the relationship from destruction.
So where does this leave my bus driver, all those many years ago? You got it, the emotional bank accounts we opened with them were liberally filled with the unconditional deposits of children not yet coached with the skills of opportunism of the world. Simple greetings from the heart of innocent children, filled the heart of these veteran workers of the daily grueling grind of life, to extend themselves to assume the role of parents, and reach out beyond call to fulfill this withdrawal they not just sanctioned but offered.
Keeping an eye on the clock, this grizzled bear of a driver, realized we would not make it on time, so he did the unthinkable, only a parent would do. Scanning the uniformed crowd of children, to search and find, two children from amongst hundreds, and get them on board, to keep a promise made so casually must have been the consequence of emotions being driven right to the bank!