House by the side of the road


I moved to Pittsburgh eighteen months ago. I rarely travel and prefer to spend my time indoors. I found it difficult to find apartments while moving to the new city. To make apartment hunting easier, CMU conducted a meetup in Bangalore to build connections and meet people. We had a happy hour session after an extempore about life in Pittsburgh from our seniors. My inferiority complex coupled with shy nature led me to walk out of the event. I wandered for an hour before I took a rickshaw home. I searched online and ended with a basement and a hall as my potential housing options. I decided to take the hall as my friends commented thar the basement was a difficult place to stay. I called the contact (Veeru) and agreed to take the place in B708 at Kenmawr Apartments.

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My cousin was kind enough to help me in my first day in Pittsburgh and he dropped me at Kenmawr. My first impression was that the apartment was messy and it seemed that I would have little or no privacy while staying in the hall. I hoped that this would push me out of my comfort zone and help me come out of my shell. I got to learn a lot from my amazing roommates and am lucky that they chose me. We had a lot of fun in past year, travelling to temple, eating at Tamarind, playing Liar’s Dice(it’s like poker) and cooking together. During my stay, I also learned how to cook ( a hundred others will say I still don’t), I understood the importance of earplugs (My roommates discussed a lot :P) and finally I learned the value in helping others.

When I first entered the apartment, my prospective roommate (Mama) offered to travel to my hotel to help me carry my stuff. I was shocked and amazed by this kind gesture. People find it hard to help friends in need but this person was willing to dedicate a few hours to carry the luggage of a random stranger. My roommates (Sashank, Veeru, Ravi and Mama) always made extra food so I could have enough to eat. I usually came late at night and there would always be something kept in the kitchen. I rarely cooked (many will say I shouldn’t be allowed to) but my roommates weren’t selfish or vengeful for me not taking initiative. I used to be engrossed in my assignments and they were compassionate enough to help me selflessly through my difficult times. I was lucky to spread their hospitality to a few of the guests who came to Kenmawr for conferences.

The day I left I learned another very important lesson, doing good is it’s own reward. Irrespective of how many people I helped move, I moved my luggage out of the apartment alone. Luckily, I am a minimalist so I could move my things in an Uber. To be honest, I was secretly hoping someone would help me move out (at least the Uber driver for a tip). Sadly, nobody did, I came to learn that self-help is the best help and I should not expect others to help me because I helped them. I’m not wise enough to comment about Karma or God but I enjoy helping others and that should be a reward in itself.

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I was requested to return to Kenmwar to supervise cleaning after Christmas. Another acquaintance of ours lived next door and I was curious as to why they called me all the way there for a simple task. Anyway, I dropped in to see that the apartment was a “HUGE MESS”. It was a wreck, there were garbage bags filled with junk everywhere and furniture that needed to be moved out. The cleaning lady (Rebecca from DustbunnyExpress) was expecting far less garbage compared to the wreckage she was supposed to deal with that day. To add to her dismay, her colleagues had bailed on her and she had gotten her teenage kids to help her clean. She had allocated two hours for the job and cleaning alone would take her three, she also had to remove the furniture.  My inferiority complex and shy nature prevent me from speaking up but I had a strong urge to help them that day and that out weighed my insecurity. I was disappointed that the owner had left out the gore details about the apartment and felt that it was wrong on his part. The cleaning lady was sportive, she took it as a challenge and decided to clean the wreckage herself. I was impressed with her positive attitude and decided to help them.

Growing up, I aspired to be a superhero like Spiderman. They portray a weak, scrawny kid like me who magically transforms into a superhuman because of a spider bite and uses his skills for good. To me, compassion is that radioactive spider that helps me come out of my shell. I was sad that the kids had to work so hard on a Saturday afternoon. I am weak and can barely open sealed jars (I didn’t eat a lot of vegetables growing up). Nevertheless, I told the lady that I would help and carried all the furniture outside the apartment with her son. The 17-year-old kid was much stronger than me, he easily managed to carry things and I used to be out of breath in minutes. Seeing us struggle, the building janitor helped us by giving us a large movable trash can, this made our work a whole lot easier.  In two hours we were done and there was only cleaning left to do. The lady thanked me and said she would handle it on her own.

I walked away with my muscles aching and returned to the room in an hour. They were almost done and I could listen to them giggling and chatting with each other. It reminded me of my times with my mom when she took us to carry groceries. I used my spare time for a quick drawing to convey my gratitude to the cleaning lady. She was happy with what I gave her and even added it to her facebook page :). I was impressed by her sportive nature and recommended her to the building manager.

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It’s amazing how a little compassion can turn a shy, weak person like me against my nature. I am unable to speak to people when my life depended on it for finding apartments but was able to help a stranger because I cared.

“Let me live in my house by the side of the road. And be a friend to man.”

It is a verse from a poem which says people live secluded lives or go on tedious journeysaway from society to find the meaning of life. The author argues that other people are no different than him and they have positive and negative characteristics that are in him. He ends the poem by saying that he chooses to lead a meaningful life by metaphorically living in a house by the side of the road so he can help people around him. I think there’s wisdom in those words, helping people in small ways through random acts of kindness is a very positive way to live. Hope to build on this skill, thank you Kenmawr for helping me get started.

I guess we can’t have superheroes in the real world. The real world needs real heros. (Kickaass)

P.S. My superhero is and always will be Sudha Murty 🙂

Happy New Year!

 

5 thoughts on “House by the side of the road

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