I didn’t wake up feeling happy. I had a dream about penguins but the alarm went off and that was a bad start to the day. Then I was grumpy and generally moody. This isn’t all that new to my life but it has worsened thanks to headaches that not even Panadeine can scare away.
I was still close to tears when I left home and walked to the bus halt. I got in to a bus feeling moody. A couple was seated in the seat before mine and their general behavior pissed me off further.
It was sunny too and I was trying to decide if I should just go back home and forget office.
Then a man got into the bus. Somewhere in Wellawatte, I think. He was somewhat old and carried a guitar with him. He sang a song and played the guitar. His voice was deep and rich and the song was just beautiful. He made me smile. I was seated in a bus, the sun burning my face and hands but I was overwhelmed by happiness.
The moment of takeoff when you are in a plane can be incredibly exhilarating. You are strapped to your seat and you’ve got this goofy smile on your face. I feel the same when the plane lands. It’s a moment of indescribable and inexplicably happiness.
That’s exactly what I felt as this man sang. And I was thankful that he was able to give me something not even I could give myself. After years of trying to find a way to make myself happy, even for a moment, here was a man I didn’t know, singing his heart out, filling that moment with happiness.
Halfway into the song, the conductor started whistling to the tune. And that just made it better. Here were two people, who didn’t know each other, but they knew a song and that was enough.
When the song ended, I expected to hear a long story about a dying wife or sick child. I expected to hear about why he couldn’t work and had to live on money collected by singing in the bus. But instead, he smiled and said that anyone can give him any amount and he thanked them in advance. He didn’t hold his palm out in front of each passenger. He walked from the front to the back of the bus and accepted what was given to him.
I gave him forty rupees. And I wish I could have given him more. But I didn’t.
I thought, ‘I can’t give him more because I want to make do with the change I have until next week.’ I thought, ‘surely, forty rupees is more than enough.’ I thought, once I saw that in his palm were only coins, ‘forty rupees is much more than the coins in his hand.’
Then he got down from the bus and the conductor whistled a bit more of the song and I still had a smile on my face and I thought, ‘is that the value I give happiness? Just forty rupees?’ Because wasn’t I paying for happiness? I wasn’t trying to help him. For all I know, he lives in a nice house and just likes to sing. He never asked for help. He sang. He mumbled that anyone can give him any amount. I didn’t feel sorry for him. So I was paying for the happiness he gave me. And I felt ashamed and sad that I valued my own happiness at Rs. 40.