In the year 2000, I, along with my wife, had gone to attend the ‘World Peace Summit’ organised at the UN headquarters in New York, in the month of August. After the summit was over, we were staying with our nephew who was newly married and was living near New York. During the same period, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan had organised a programme under the caption ‘Vande Matram’ in which the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, was the chief guest. Being a life member of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, I was also invited to the programme and I had arranged an additional invitation for my nephew and his wife. My nephew was living in a small flat on the first floor and there was another similar flat opposite to his on the same floor. There was a common entrance for both at the ground floor and my nephew and his neighbour both possessed separate keys of that entrance gate. Except for this, they did not communicate with each other, as it turned out following the event given below.
We had gone to Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s programme after breakfast and while returning in the afternoon, my nephew noticed that he had lost the keys to his flat including that of the common entrance gate. By the time he realised this we had almost reached home. He also realised that he had forgotten to pick up his bunch of keys after it was passed through the screening machine at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan for security reasons. We had already travelled a lot and there appeared no sense in going back to the venue of the programme. So we decided to deal with the situation accordingly.
When we reached home, we thought of taking the neighbour’s help in getting the common entrance gate opened. But my nephew didn’t have his telephone number. Somehow, he managed to get in touch with him through the locality office and requested him to open the common gate. During all this activity, me and my wife were silent spectators, hoping that the neighbour would at least offer his flat for waiting and also offer a cup of tea or a drink, which we needed badly. However, when the neighbour came down to open the common lock, he was accompanied by a big dog and after opening the lock, rushed back in a very impersonal manner. All our hopes for comfortable waiting and a drink were shattered in no time.
Anyway, we kept waiting and sat on the stairs while my nephew arranged for a locksmith who came in about half an hour. After opening the lock of his flat in almost no time he charged fifty dollars as his wage. During this entire wait, we were fondly remembering our country where most of us consider it our good luck to help our neighbours, particularly in times of crisis. But in America, hoping for such courtesies was perhaps our ignorance. It also occurred to me that we should not follow the West blindly, lest our human qualities disappear. After all, India is a country which has always believed in the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’, the entire world is our family. It is a different matter that even the nuclear families are now breaking up in increasing numbers.