It was just one of those mornings. I’d slept late because I’d dropped Rishi to the airport, and I’d ignored the alarm one time too many in the morning. The water in the shower wasn’t scalding enough, the newspaper guy was late, my French manicure had worn out to an unsightly mess. To top it all, I was on my way to work when I realized I’d forgotten to charge my phone – this meant no music, no email on the metro.
I scootched into a seat in between two immaculately dressed women – one Lebanese (clothes, hair, makeup, manicure – check) and another a burqa clad local Emirati (I’m sure NASA astronauts could smell that perfume on the moon.) The metro had been newly commissioned in Dubai last month, this meant, as with all things in Dubai, everybody had to try it for a few months till the next big thing came along.
I ran through the list of things I needed to get done at work, with that now familiar mixture of rising panic and sinking desperation. I’d been at this job for three years now, it showed no signs of getting easier, and the company showed no signs of rewarding me for a good job done with more money, a better position, or at the very least, more help.
As expected, I‘d barely put my bag down at my desk, when my boss, a huge, overweight Australian with a penchant for getting to work insanely early in the morning, barreled out; “Frank’s looking for those revised forecast numbers first thing this morning.”
“I saved them into the common drive before I left last night”, I replied. “And top of the morning to you too," I muttered under my breath, as he stalked back into his room. I crawled underneath my desk to plug in the phone charger, as I got back to my feet I noticed a little plastic bag on my desk.
That was weird. I’d cleaned my desk out last night. I picked it up, it felt warm. I opened the bag, and there was a little parcel wrapped in a newspaper inside. As I reached in, the smell hit me.
I couldn’t believe it. It was impossible. “ It’s a vada pav!”, I called out in amazement to the empty cubicles around me.
A vada pav is a vegetarian, Indian version of a hamburger. It is largely eaten as fast food back home - in Mumbai. Just the other day, I remembered mentioning how much I missed Mumbai and its street food in one of the usual late evening, teatime chats that we had as a team in the pantry.
I walked to the pathetic cubicle at the end of the hall, where four of the team assistants sat, squeezed into a place not large enough for two. Lubna was there, sorting the pile in her intray. “ Did you have anything to do with this?” I asked, vada pav in hand.
“Yeah, they’ve opened a new fast food store in Sharjah. I saw that they had vada pav on their menu, so I brought you one. Is it any good?” she asked matter of factly.
I looked at her, nonplused, struggling to control the surge of emotion that suddenly welled up, at this unexpected, random act of kindness, coming from a person I barely knew, even though I spent the better part of my day with her.I t seemed inexplicably good natured in an environment where all anyone was concerned about was getting the job done and looking out for number one. The little bun in my hand threatened to open the lid to the pent up frustration and exhaustion that had been building up inside me over the last few years, and an explosion was imminent.
I stood there for a few moments, struggling for control. “ Thanks Lubna, you made my day.” I walked away, vada pav in hand, immensely grateful - for thoughfulness and friendship, for that little act that redeemed my belief in kindness. No matter how frustrating and exhausting this day would be, for a brief moment that morning, I was able to connect with my inner humanity.