A Lesson From a Stranger - by Laiba Zaman

I still remember it was a cool shiny morning; the sky was clear and blue, and trees were dancing back and forth with the cool breeze. The pleasant air was bearing the message of summer's arrival. a. Despite all the serenity, I was in a strange turmoil inexplainable by any philosophy or science. The young and naïve me who had just celebrated her 18 birthday a month ago, including her FSC, a few weeks earlier, was going through an existential crisis. I was perplexed about my studies and career goals.

I was flying alone from Islamabad to Karachi. Poor me was alone, young, and confused. At the airport, I was a little reserved, kind of protective, quite like a Russian doll with many layers. My family left. And I entered the lounge after concluding all airport procedures. An anxious feeling started to brew in my heart. I started thinking about which career to opt for, which university to join, even whether to leave the city where I spent the last ten years or not. Like the wild waves of an ocean, these thoughts began to gain momentum in my mind, ready to swallow any sliver of peace and happiness that I held onto.

An announcement was made, after which I grabbed my handbag. I headed towards the airplane. As I made myself comfortable on the seat, I looked around and witnessed confused faces, looking for their seats, including well-dressed air hostesses guiding the passengers. I was casually looking around when a middle-aged man about 35- 40 years old made his way through the people and sat next to me. I shrugged a little and leaned towards the window. The man sat, fastened his seat belt, slid out a laptop from his bag, and started working. I glanced at him in dismay and looked out of the window. After everyone settled and the airplane taxied, it flew freely in the sky, over the fluffy white clouds. Even during that time, the man was busy working on his laptop.

The plane landed successfully at Karachi airport. An announcement was made that all the passengers were requested to remain seated until the plane came to a stop entirely. I jumped up from my seat. But I stopped when I saw a group of men heading towards the plane's exit door. To my surprise, the man stood from his seat, paused, and made way for me so that I may pass. I was shocked because, throughout the flight, I was displeased by his presence. After leaving the plane, the man stood with me as if he was my father or brother. He asked me where I was going and why I was alone. I told him that I was going to Karachi to join some university there, and my maternal family is from Karachi. He asked me if I was going to Karachi for the first time. I told him I had been there several times. As I was slightly shy and confused, therefore I was unable to reply properly. Also, I abysmally displayed my gratitude for his unasked kindness and favor. After exchanging a few sentences with him, I went to a shop, grabbed a bag of chips, and headed towards the luggage section to pick my suitcase. As I was waiting for my belongings to come, I again heard a familiar voice. This time again, it was that middle-aged man. He asked me if I needed any more help. Or maybe he would help me pick my luggage. I replied, "Thank you! I will manage". After that, he left.

I don't know that man's name nor why he was flying from Islamabad to Karachi. I don't know where he belonged and what his aspirations or traumas are. But the only thing I know is that he was a kind man who helped a confused stranger. Although his facial expressions have faded from my mind, his kindness and assistance are something that will stay with me forever.

One thing I learned from that stranger is that no matter how bad or good you are, you always have the chance to do something. This something does not need to be grand or exceptional. Little efforts are a source of peace and happiness for someone. We usually do things because we want ourselves to be admired by people. We want them to praise us. But, this emotion's true beauty and tranquility can only be felt if you do something for someone without any hope of return or praise.

Lastly, I just want to say a little thank you to that stranger uncle. Although I was a bit perplexed that day, I still remember you. People like you give me hope that there are still good people on this planet.

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