ARK- Act of Random Kindness. I heard this for the 1st time as a voice of Morgan freeman. Movie, I think,was Evan Almighty. I really felt connected to this simple statement. Maybe because this was related to one of the sayings that I grew up learning, “Do good and forget it”. Another reason could also be that it in way reflected my nature of randomness too. Although, there are benefits of being organised, but in general I still prefer randomness. It brings some uncertainty, some excitement in life. This is probably the reason why when I watched much praised “Pay it forward”, I found it boring and ugly concept. It is like and organisation. Why do i have to limit myself to certain people and has to ask people to pay it forward. To me if an helpful act has to have a beauty, it has to come spontaneously. if it comes from some message, some binding or some moral rule, it lose its beauty.
Last year, I had some holidays left and year end was coming close. I wanted to travel somewhere. as this is something I started to like recently, especially travelling alone. I had no clue and no criteria set on where to go. All I had a thought was to go somewhere where I feel open and connected, get a chance to know new people, new culture. Challenge was how to know beforehand, if I would like that place or not. Finally, I used economics to help me decide. I checked the cheapest places to reach. As it was year end an I was planning late, all air tickets were costly. It happened that I found cheapest travel cost was to reach Croatia. For some reason I immediately felt like, yes! this is the place to go. Why? no idea. I had no clue about the country. Bus connection of 8 hours journey would take me to capital city Zagreb. I checked wikipedia and came across another places named Zadar, Rijeka, Split, Dubrovnik. Due to some randomness I picked Zadar as the place to go 1st. As I did not know, what to do in 8 days, i thought to reach Zadar 1st and then come back to capital for new year celebrations. This increased my 1st day travel time to 12 hours. I booked rooms at Zadar and Zagreb with only planning that I will spend 4 days at each place. Now the wait to travel day began.
The day of travel came. After 12 hours of journey and beautiful lunch at some stop in Austria, I reached Zadar. On the way I had a chance to see city of Zagreb from bus window. I did not get any feeling for the place. As the bus was approaching Zadar, I started to feel some change in me. I had a feeling that I will like the place. After keeping my stuff at my room, my host told me that Zadar is divided into old town and new town. Old town is the place for tourists and holds the history of this ancient town. I had no clue, as I did not reach much about the place before coming. I took the map and started towards old town to find food.
Without any map, I started to roam around the city and pick some place to have my dinner. It felt nice and relaxed to walk in those streets. But, still I was missing something. I finally found a place where I felt I will enjoy the food. As I was about to enter the restaurant, I heard a voice “Namaste“. I was shocked to hear it. I turned back and saw a person with wide smile with folded hands. I said “namaste” in return and entered the restaurant. After dinner, I thought to take further walk in the city and check if I can find that “missing part”. I went to a cafe bar, sat for some time. It was a normal place, with many people, TV playing some songs, people drinking and talking in their groups under loud music. I sat there for sometime and beginning to feel, if I have made the right decision to come here or not. After about 30 min, I got up and thought may be it is time to sleep and see how the morning unfolds. Somehow, I happened to pass through the same street where the person greeted me. I was tired, but for some reason I felt I should go in this cafe bar, before I sleep. While still thinking about whether to sleep or get in, I opened the door of this cafe. I was not prepared for the surprise. I was welcomed by multiple people with “namaste” and wide smiles. Smiles that were authentic and not because of training or the ones where one can read “business” in it. That moment in a way completed that missing connection. Before I could realise, I was talking to multiple people, like I have known them before. That time I made the decision, I am going to stay here for the full holidays. I was not sure why I am changing the original plan, but it was somehow very clear to me. Before I realised it was 3 in the morning and I had already made the commitment to owner that I will come here everyday atleast for one coffee. Why this commitment? I do not know. But, it was a very spontaneous and very clear thought. And I did visit the place every evening and every time, I felt more and more connected to the place and people. During the day, I walked around the small town. I walked past the streets multiple times. It did not feel boring at all. Everyday I went to hear sea organ. The random music, the cold air, sound of waves and vastness of sea; It was magical. I sat there for an hour or more every day, even when it was strong wind and temperature went down to -8. Due to winter, there were hardly any tourists in the town. Once in a while, I would encounter some other tourist taking some pictures. But empty streets, rather felt very comfortable to me. It was like they are for me. But streets are just streets, it was the people and their warmth that made my time in Zadar unforgettable.
Slowly, I happened to meet more people in the city. The cafe bar was the main connection place for me. It was surprising that almost everyone who came, shared the same warmth and energy. They all made me feel like part of their “group” their home. While talking to them, we realised that two places thousands of kms apart shares a lot in culture and behaviour. My biggest surprise came when I was invited by a family to their home for new year evening. It was unbelievable for me. Initially, I had anxiety and kind of strange fear to be at somebody’s home. They had invited other friends too, whom I have not met before. I believe that fear and anxiety was about, if I would be comfortable and would they be comfortable with “me” in the group. I went there with mixed feelings. However, all the people were so nice and warm. All the time I did not feel like I am a stranger. However, I did not understand their language, but they all made sure I am not left out. Beauty was that it was not happening due to some obligation or moral duty. Till the time one was not comfortable, (s)he will did not put a facade to look comfortable. Very simple straight forward combination. after lots of talks and food, them clock rang. We all went up to the roof to light some firecrackers, whole everybody wished everyone “Sretana Nova Godina!”. It was a unforgettable experience of my life and a very special new year evening. Thanks to all who made it happen. By another act of randomness, I got invited by another beautiful person to his house on an island. It was a very special day. We had our coffee in morning and he drove us to his place. We parked a parked the car on “un-tarred” road. To reach his house we had to walk for couple of minutes. behind the trees and bushes a beautiful house by the sea side was waiting for us. We just sat by the sea, had some tea. He told us about the house and how business is trying to kill the nature and herbs around the place. Then he cooked nice meal for us. a lot of time were sitting without talking and just enjoying the simplicity of the place. A wonderful day it was. Last evening, while talking at cafe, I was asked, how do I feel while leaving. I made a comment,” I came here and the place fell in love with me. Radar will never be the same again”. It was surely a comment on lighter side. But the fact is that Zadar and the people I met here had such an impact that, “I am changed forever”. Beautiful thing was that it made me at peace, made me still, made me calm. I hope when I go next time, I can feel the same and the “place” can feel me too.
I have always liked to do some random act of kindness when I have a spontaneous feeling. But, recently I have started to realise that actually it is me who have been received such kindness in so many different ways and from so many different sources. I cannot understand in any other way that how all all those small things in my life, those sudden decisions, random searches on streets, selection on gut feeling, has brought me in touch of so many beautiful people in my life. Visit to Zadar made me realise it, that it has not just happened this time, but it has been happening all my life. I feel all these acts are helping to reach somewhere to be somewhere; may be some place within me. I have this feeling that atleast in near future, I want to spend my time doing simple things and some ARK. I hope the random acts happening at different scale, will take me to a beautiful journey. I do not know, if I will be able to really help someone in anyway. But, one thing I can definitely do is that share a smile the person. Hopefully, it will move something in that person. Keep smiling
Little Ernie is taken to the dentist’s office for a checkup.
“It is okay, Doc,” says Ernie. “You can take off the mask, I have already recognized you.”