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The most heartwarming No-Shave November anecdote!

Written by Hitakshu Bhatia
Most virtuous people- and I make so bold as to count myself among them- go for morning walks. Stepping out into an unsullied day helps you to anchor the rest of the hours, gives you a respite from the mediocre but necessary things that so often despoil the majestic possibilities of each new dawn, and of course, has a salubrious effect on your health, which in your youth becomes a pillar of your strength. I cross the boundary of the gate and launch into my walk. The air quality is at its peak, your head is clear, you think straight, thoughts are articulated like never before. I mean, it’s a privilege to witness the dawn.

Since I intend spending considerable amounts of time in this beautiful place in the foreseeable future, I practice my usual courtesies towards my fellow walkers. A smile, I find, best serves the purpose. It doesn’t break the flow of your thoughts; it aligns you loosely with those others around you who have forsaken the warmth of a bed for the alternative of the tarmac, the trees, the early birds, the milk man, the trash man, the garden tenders, both men and women, the later with saris hitched high in the local fashion, the sprightly school children hurrying on their bicycles and the yet as benign sun overseeing the motley but mostly silent crowd.

As I approach the end of the lane, I espy an old gentleman sporting a tidy goatee, dressed semi-formally in trousers and a shirt, newspaper in hand and walking towards me in an amble fashion. I, for a brief moment, feel in a more comfortable and formal presence. Automatically, my head inclines in a respectful greeting. The gentleman perceives the nod with slight surprise and returns a stately nod in return. The fleeting encounter over, I pass on and he goes back to his newspaper. Days roll by. The lanes are now familiar; the smiled greetings or the lack thereof expected. Today I am in an expansive but distracted mood. The distraction stems from a different thought. The thought that where am I headed in life(with nothing much to really look forward to). Questions lead to more question: Am I being the best I can be? Where did I go wrong down the line? It goes on. My mind battles with questions of whether I will ever be able to become the best version of myself or not.

Thus engrossed, my feet were doing their walking when I was brought up short by a heavy educated male voice saying firmly and courteously: ‘Good morning, son. How are you?’ Startled I looked up and beheld the goatee gentleman of a few days ago, crossing my path tangentially, walking down from an artificial hillock. I was startled on two counts. Firstly, as I have said before, I was engrossed in deep thoughts and second, it was the first time that an exchange of greetings had been initiated by a person other than me. Also, at such a time, a mere ‘good morning’  would have sufficed. ‘How are you?’ was extra and welcoming, especially as it had sounded to my unwary ears as genuine. I responded with: ‘Good morning sir, very well. And you?’. What he told me next shook my world inside out. He said, ‘Never better, son. Never better. Cancer sure teaches you how to live life while you are still alive’. I was unable to get a word out after hearing that.

Like all such encounters, this one was already over but it had made its impact. He had made a connection. It was small but definite. The “son” in the greeting was so overwhelming that it sent a trill of joy through the pre-occupied silence of my thoughts. All was not lost. I was not invisible. A polite stranger going through cancer had acknowledged my presence in the scheme of things. I’m sure life must be beyond ‘hard enough’ for him yet he acknowledged my presence. And unless you’ve gone through it, it’s incredibly hard to empathize with its level of “suck”. It’s ironic how self-centred we could be at times so as to fail to see to see the pain our fellow beings are going through. Least we could do is to acknowledge their presence, let them know that they are not alone in this. Horace Mann said that we should be ashamed to die until we have made some major contribution to mankind.
I see him quite often now. I’ve been thinking on the lines of what I can do on my part to spread more awareness about cancer among people. And it’s pretty clear to me that the best way to do so now is to follow the ‘No-Shave November Mission’. No-Shave November is a month-long journey during which participants forgo shaving and grooming in order to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness. Donate the money you typically spend on shaving and grooming to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle. Let’s keep this going, guys!
I’m keeping my beard this month. Are you doing the same?

About the author

Hitakshu Bhatia

Hitakshu Bhatia is a final year engineering student from AISSMS COE, Pune. He loves reading and saunters through life one book at a time. His other interests are writing, travelling and practising Reiki but above all things he's a hardcore foodie and a punjabi music lover.

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