It’s Okay To Be Not Proud of Yourself All the Time: When Guilt Defines Us For Who We Truly Are

Fareeha Arshad
Photo by Pankaj Kumar on Unsplash
It was back in the year 2004 when this happened.

I was very young — hardly eight or nine years old. We had gone to Mumbai, in India, during summer break for a short vacation.

If ever you are in India, especially in Maharashtra, you should know that trains are the primary mode of daily commute for most of the Indian population there. Every human — be it students or workers or anybody who wants to go from one point to another, uses trains. It’s a cheap and easy way to travel. That is why the railway stations are populated.

Wait. No. Over the top populated. And you cannot blame anybody. It has always been like that. Even now. In every square foot, fifteen people are crammed together. That’s not the worst part. Everybody is in a hurry to reach their destination — every single soul.

On average, each train there stands for two minutes at max. At that moment, people are supposed to get off the train, and the ones who want to board the train are supposed to get in. And often, there is only one door to that coach on the train.

It’s crazy.

Stations are something like this.
A normal day on an unpopulated Indian Railway StationFlickr
Anyway, we were returning from the Essel World. It is a giant amusement park in Mumbai, a fantasy for every kid. It’s like the Disney World of India. I remember having a gala time there.

We, like everybody else, used the local trains to commute that day. It was 5 in the evening that day, and the rush hour was at its peak. Everybody wanted to rush back to their homes from offices or colleges. For some reason, my parents were in a hurry too. I mean, we were on vacation, for crying out loud!

My mum held my hand tightly so that I wouldn’t get lost amidst the massive crowd of tall people. I was a small, four feet kid. With their long legs, my parents walked at a pace way faster than my short legs could carry me. The only way I could keep up was by running while they walked. Amidst all the chaos and the fear of not getting lost, I accidentally stepped on a porter’s slipper. When I turned back, I looked at a very old and fragile man who held three suitcases above his head. My heart broke.

Whenever I recall the incident, I remember that I was running to keep up with my mother’s pace and stepped on something I shouldn’t have.

I remember that I looked over my shoulders and saw an ashen-faced, tall man with three pieces of luggage on his head, whose head was bent and was staring at his now broken slippers.

I remember trying to free my hands from my mum’s tight grip to rush over him and apologize, but I couldn’t. I remember every time I wriggled my hands, mum’s grip only strengthened so that I wouldn’t get lost.

I remember shouting on top of my lungs to my mum to help that guy whose slippers that I just broke, only to find my voice being drowned with the entire railway station’s chaos.

That was something evil I accidentally did when I was nine, and now I am twenty-five, and I still cannot bring myself to forget that event. That episode is forever etched in my brain and is something I can never be proud of.

I couldn’t do anything back then, but now, whenever I find myself in a situation where I see an older man with a broken slipper or no slipper at all — like that porter at Mumbai railway station — I buy him a pair from a nearby shop and hand it to him. It’s the least I can do to ease the guilt I have been carrying ever since that day.

Guilt-ridden moments like these surely define us in some overpowering ways.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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