TTK No. 34

Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I see how my kindness protected me. One night I was leaving a supermarket in Goa, India. I started my scooter and, without looking, moved to reenter the roadway. I did not see the other scooter coming toward me. I swerved at the last moment, as did the other driver, so close our mirrors clipped. No helmets, wearing beach clothes and flip-flops as you do in Goa, we were inches from a major accident. I immediately pulled off to the side of the road waiting for him to do the same. Before I could get off my scooter, he drove up alongside, leapt off his scooter and leaned the bike’s entire weight against me. As I struggled to lift his scooter off my leg, he began to scream at me in Hindi, inches from my face. He was Indian and a big man, his hair long and dark, wearing a sweaty Bob Marley tank and blue jeans. His fists were clenched.

My heart raced, but somehow I felt centered in something. I kept eye contact and remained silent as he raged. I remember feeling that I could wait forever for him to have his say. Maybe I was just trying not to give him a reason to kick my ass. But maybe, just maybe, I sincerely did care for how he felt in that moment. Maybe I sincerely was willing to take responsibility for my part. Whatever my motive, clearly he was expecting confrontation. Probably he thought me another privileged, arrogant white European on holiday. He expected me to defend my pride. That’s not what happened.

“My fault,” I said. “My fault. Are you okay?”

He pointed at his bike and yelled something about it being damaged.

“My fault,” I repeated. “What can I do to help you?”

Even though it was very dark on that road that night, I saw something extraordinary happen. He stopped yelling. He stood now, quiet and still, looking at me. I touched my heart, took my wallet from my pocket and opened it, “Here, for your damages.”

He stared, then motioned to put it away. He said, “No. You a good man.” He touched his own heart, got on his scooter, and drove off. I never saw him again.

Maybe this is why I don’t often fear traveling in foreign places. I believe I carry my own destined experiences with me. If I bring anger, I should expect anger. If I bring fear, I should expect fearful things. And if I bring mindfulness, then maybe even the worst potentials will never be realized, and little miracles will transpire. (Actually these rules seem to apply in all circumstances, in every interaction and conversation I enter, not just when my suitcase is packed.)

I’m still surprised I didn’t shit my pants though.