What goes around

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying,  “What goes around comes around”. For me, it’s an observable phenomenon in daily life. For some people it’s a fact of faith. For some others, it’s nonsense. People call it all sorts of things, like the reaping of seeds sown or karma. The bottom line is, you’re supposed to get good in return for the good you do, and bad in return for the bad you do.

A few months ago, I was on my way home in my car with my mom. For some reason, we had both forgotten to arrange dinner for that evening, and so we thought we’d stop at the local Sensal (for those of you who don’t know it’s this awesome food outlet chain in Sri Lanka) to grab some Kottu for the evening. I was too lazy to get down from the car, so I told my mom to go get it, while I waited.

More than laziness, I was plain pissed off at a few things that had happened in my life at that point. A lot of my dreams were destroyed and I was trying to get back up on my feet again, trying to figure things out. I was in a bad mood, thinking about the past and how I could have acted to fix what went wrong. I was feeling so low about everything, including myself. Everything seemed to be spiralling down. I had no job, I had no new dreams and I was just wallowing in general sadness.

Waiting in the car for my mom was an attempt to gather myself together I suppose. I rolled the shutters down, leaned back on my seat and watched the people scurry about in the shop, ordering food, heating food and eating food. I tried to get my mind off all my problems by looking at these people and trying to make up conversations between them (as I usually do!) but it just wasn’t working today. I was hitting rock bottom, and I could feel it.

Then he appeared.

I suppose he was in his forties, but it was hard to say. A dark, rather short thin man, going from car to car and to anyone he could see on the street desperately trying to sell some calendars and posters he had with him. Now this wasn’t anything unusual. There are so many people like this in Sri Lanka on the streets, who rather than begging, make a decent living by actually working for it this way. But what captivated me was the look of sheer desperation and frustration in his face. Clearly, today was not going well for his business.

I watched him being turned down over and over again by the people on the street and in the cars. After all, not many people would want to buy large posters of the Buddha, or calendars for an year that was halfway through. But this guy wasn’t giving up. He seemed determined to sell something that day, although I could see the look of deep concern and fear he had in his face between his attempts to cheerfully sell his goods to people.

Suddenly, I had this urge to buy something from him. I suppose I felt sorry for him, trying so hard to sell something to a bunch of people who didn’t give a shit. A part of me wondered if he was just upset that he wasn’t going to be able to buy his booze or drugs tonight.

But a voice in my head said “Buy a poster from him”. It was very clear, very precise.

I looked at my wallet. Remember, I was unemployed at that point, so my money was really precious to me. I found that I had about four hundred rupees left for the rest of the week. I thought I could maybe buy one of those small booklet things from him for about a hundred and fifty rupees. But then the voice in my head said “Buy the Buddha poster from him.”

Well I thought it should be about the same price anyway. So when he came over, I asked him how much it was. He seemed happy that someone actually asked him the prices instead of just shoving him away. “Three hundred rupees” he said.

“Okay give me one.” I said automatically. My selfish brain kept screaming “OMGS PRAGEETH WTF ARE YOU DOING? SAVE THAT CASH FOR A CHICKEN SUB!” but I ignored it.

The look on his face, I could never forget that look. He kept thanking me over and over as he carefully rolled the poster for me and exchanged it for the money. He gushed on and on about how he couldn’t sell anything today and because of this sale, he could get some food for his kids.

As he went off into the night to try and sell some more, I searched myself for the feelings of sadness and despair that were tormenting me just a few minutes ago, but they were gone. Instead I felt so good!

I told my mom about what I did when she got back. She smiled and shook her head. “Hope he won’t buy drugs with it.” she said, echoing my earlier thoughts. But I was happy nonetheless, and all my sadness forgotten.

What goes around really comes around. Don’t believe me yet? Wait ’till you hear the next part of the story.

About two weeks later, I pulled into a petrol station nearby for some petrol and air. I was feeling a bit down again on that day, because I had failed several job interviews and I was seriously doubting my capabilities as a programmer. Perhaps not as upset as the previous day, but upset nevertheless.

I was waiting in the line when I saw a someone familiar walking towards my car. It was the poster guy! I didn’t think he’d recognize me today because it was daytime and I didn’t have a beard (which I had grown previously), so I rolled down my shutter and said “Sorry man I don’t have any cash to buy stuff from you today.”

He just smiled and said “It’s okay sir. I remember you. You helped me that day when nobody else would and I will never forget it. May the Buddha bless you sir!”

As he walked away, so did my feelings of despair vanish yet again.

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~ by Prageeth Thoradeniya on October 20, 2010.

One Response to “What goes around”

  1. That’s a great experience man. I suppose you traded the money for something far more invaluable – relief from despair. Which, even with the money you had earlier, wasn’t going away. Hmm. 🙂

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