A stranger. An unforgettable kind act. And an expression of gratitude three decades later.

“That article which appeared in your newspaper was interesting. It was well-written,” the senior said. But next a bombshell was dropped. 

A group of journalists was travelling in a bus heading to cover an  event. The senior's sudden compliment came as a pleasant surprise.  I had written it myself and I assumed he saw my name on the article. To my surprise, he asked: “Who wrote the article?”

I had taken it for granted in the few seconds that he had chosen to appreciate someone who was new to the profession by referring to the article. I was a bit taken aback when he asked who wrote the article.  I told him it was my article that he had read. 

The senior’s silence was now defeating.  What started off as a conversation on a positive note had suddenly met with a road block. His silence was baffling.  Worse still, disappointment was writ large on his face. I asked him if there was anything wrong with the article. “It was okay.  Not so great but okay,” he responded. From “very well-written” to ‘okay” in just a couple of minutes, how could his comment change so much both in tone and tenor? 

I slowly understood from the conversation that followed that the senior that he was, he did not want to acknowledge that a newcomer could churn out such a piece as the one which had caught his attention. And so, he pursed his lips. He literally took back his appreciation and even appeared to regret his ‘slip of the tongue’ in lauding a 20-year-old fresh graduate who had forayed into journalism. 

Today, I remember him in a context. Contrasting him with another person who instantly became a friend and guide and took upon himself the role of an affectionate elder brother in 1988.

Pulipalupula Anandam is the one I am talking about. He introduced himself to me. This also happened while we were travelling to cover an event. He took the initiative to talk to me. He had seen me for the first time, so he enquired about me. 

Anandam was at least one decade my senior when I set foot in journalism. He took it upon himself to introduce me to the journalistic fraternity on different platforms related to professionals, which were greatly helpful me to. It has been 33 years since then. He has always been the same gentle and kind person. It has always been a pleasure running into him on certain occasions during our professional work but there never was a time wherein I could express my gratitude to him for being as welcoming as he was when he came across a newcomer like me. This remained in my memory.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Anandam, now 67,  at my house.  Anandam lives a happy retired life with his family - wife, three sons and their spouses and six grandchildren. One of his sons is a software engineer, another a builder and the last one a civil engineer. 

When Anandam visited me at my house on December 31, 2021, I reminded him all that he had done for a stranger like me. Tears swelled his eyes. He removed his spectacles and wiped his tears. “I am unable to contain my emotions. I am overwhelmed by the small details that you remember to express gratitude,” Anandam said he regained his poise. “You do not have to be grateful or thankful at all,” he told me. 

But I know how much I value the unconditional regard and affection he had for me. One small act of kindness was enough to give me a sense of belonging in the fraternity. 

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