Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Price of Happiness

"Pisang emas dibawa berlayar
Masak sebiji di atas peti
Hutang emas boleh dibayar
Hutang budi dibawa mati"

Malay pantun

Golden Sunrise
Sunrise yesterday (28.01.2014), seen from the entrance of my apartment building.

On Monday, I cycled to work with the shadow of a forty-eight-hour, two-day call riding pillion with me. Monday calls are always tough as my colleagues from the other departments would choose to hold on to their patients over the weekend as a form of professional courtesy and then unloading all of them on the poor sod who draws the Monday straw. I had seven referrals before noon and that is a fuck-lot of referrals for a department that can expect zero referrals on a good day. Seven referrals before lunch is a number that even those benighted, overworked peons over at Internal Medicine would consider a heavy load. We Psychiatry Medical Officers are not used to breaking a sweat in the line of duty. That morning, I also admitted two of the patients referred to me putting me firmly ahead in the M.O. leaderboard of most-patients-admitted to our new virginal Psychiatric Ward, which is still pristine and free from the ammonium miasma of insanity that permeates older psychiatric facilities.

That morning, I had breakfast at a coffee shop opposite of my apartment building and as par for course for most open-air eateries in the city of Kuching, dirty, smelly, cancerous cigarette smokers fart through their disgusting mouths without a care, poisoning most of the premises. In order to put myself at least 20-feet away from the nearest of these accursed butt-suckers, I was forced to share a table with a stranger. I am not overly fond of conversations and especially less so on a Monday morning so after I sat down, I distanced myself from my immediate reality by sticking my headphones into my ears and tuned in to an episode of Harmontown (a weekly podcast hosted by Dan Harmon, the misanthropic comedic genius who created my favourite TV show of all time, Community). People usually don't try to talk to people who have headphones on but in my experience, it's not idiot-proof.

Golden Sunset
Sunset yesterday, as seen from the balcony of my apartment.

I had a bowl of greasy kolo mee, a Kuching staple which the locals are overly and unjustifiably proud of (it's just some salty dry-tossed noodle with little else in it, really). The best part about it is that it is usually cheap. I mean, I am a doctor and I can't even afford to drive to work in this country anymore with the prices of every commodity (except kangkung) rising like sewage out of a toilet blocked by political shitheads. Cheap is what I am looking for these days.

My fellow breakfaster, who had so kindly allowed me to take refuge a safe distance away from the toxic fumes of tobacco addicts (and was so considerate as to avoid the urge to chat or even make eye contact with me) left before I finished, leaving the table to my sole sovereignty. Soon, I too have supped my fill and got up to pay the kolo mee seller. Little did I suspect, I was in for a surprise.

Orange Sun Set Over Mountain
A close-up of the above sunset descending behind the mountain.

"That guy you were sitting with already paid for you," he said.

Say what? I quickly looked around for my benefactor, only to realise that I didn't actually look at him long enough to recognise him the entire time we dined together. I haven't the foggiest why he did it but it sure as heck wasn't because of my good looks. Meanwhile, two senior citizens have claimed my recently vacated table and started chatting spiritedly about whatever it is that senior citizens chat about over breakfast.

"I'll pay for them," I told the shopowner.

"They are not the man who paid for you," said Captain Obvious.

"I know," I answered, paid and left. I couldn't pay the magnanimous John Doe back for his spontaneous act of goodwill, but I could pay it forward. It heartens me to find out that although the prices of everything else continue to rise, the price of my faith in humanity remained cheap - and he bought it back for me with just four bucks.

And the least I could do was give the same gift to others. It blows my mind that if everyone pays every kindness done to them forward, we can make the day of every single person in the world at the price of four measly dollars.

P.S. Much more meaningful than forwarding chain e-mails and re-tweeting, methinks.

P.P.S. All  pictures taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 camera.

A conduit of kindness,
k0k s3n w4i


darshan said...

Could be an ex-patient of yours even if only for consultation and prescription and so paid for you out of appreciation for your services rendered.

k0k s3n w4i said...

darshan: I prefer to think it was someone who did something nice just because.