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How Medium made me question my faith in the goodness of humans

And how a stranger restored that faith

Photo courtesy Pixabay

A couple of weeks ago, I had written a post about how I was quitting my Medium membership. I did this because of the unfairness of a rich company happily accepting my membership payments from India while claiming it’s unable to make writer payments to the same country, which happens to be the second largest nation in the world in terms of population. After two whole years of paying Medium and getting nothing but empty promises in return, I was really beginning to question my belief that humans are good by nature.

And then this morning happened.

It was another typical muggy Indian morning as I started off on my morning run of two rounds around the local racecourse. It was hot, sweaty and every step was an effort as I kept stumbling forward counting the minutes till the torture ends. About halfway through my run, I was overtaken by this guy who has made it a habit to smirk his way past me, around 100m from the end of his run. But something was different today. He had overtaken me after the end point of his run. It seemed to me he had a whole round left to go today.

Time for some payback.

I upped my pace till I was able to stop him from gaining on me, and held the pace for a while, as I let my muscles get used to the faster pace, stabilized my breathing, and waited for the right moment to kick off. It came a few minutes later. With a kilometer left in my run, my headset began playing the Chainsmoker’s ‘All we know.’ The uplifting beat was exactly what I needed to lengthen my stride and get into a faster rhythm that let me coast effortlessly past my tormentor. I didn’t let up either and kept the pace till I completed that last kilometer of my 5km run. On checking my running app, I found that I had done that last kilometer in 5.04 minutes, which is the fastest 1-km split I have ever run in a 5km run, undercutting the 5.09 minutes I had done all the way back in 2014. The fact that I had also comprehensively beaten my tormentor in the process meant that I just couldn’t stop smiling.

After a few minutes of warming down, I got on my bike and rode off home, still savouring my victory, and singing along to the music on my Bluetooth headset.

Suddenly the song cut off with an odd beep on my headset. Now, this was a new sports headset which I had just got a few days back to replace the previous headset which had temporarily succumbed to a deluge of sweat on a previous run. So I assumed that sweat had got into my new headset. I consoled myself that it was still in the warranty period and continued on my way while keeping on pressing the button on the headset, hoping it would reconnect.

Reconnect? It suddenly struck me to check my phone to see if it was connected to the headset. To my utter shock, I found my phone missing from my pocket. It must have slipped out when I got on my bike, and that odd beep on my new headset was its way of warning me that my phone was out of Bluetooth range.

I did a quick u-turn and raced back down the road. At around the point, the beep started, my headset announced that it had reconnected to my phone. But my phone itself was invisible. There were a few people on the road, and maybe one of them had picked it up. I raised my voice and called out asking if anyone had seen a phone on the road. All I got was a few strange looks from the passersby for my pains.

This wasn’t working.

I had two options. I could either borrow someone’s phone and call my phone. Or race off to my home which was five minutes away, get my wife’s iPhone, and call my phone, and if that didn’t work, track it with Apple’s ‘Find my Phone’ app. The second option seemed better so that’s what I did.

As I dialed my number, I didn’t have much hope that it would ring. My brother-in-law had lost his iPhone 7 a couple of months ago, and whoever found it had immediately switched it off and removed its SIM. The phone was never seen again. So it was a bit unexpected when I heard my phone begin to ring, and I was even more surprised when someone answered it.

I explained to the man on the other side that he had my phone, and asked him where he was, so I could come and collect it. He asked me to come to a bank close to where I lost it. Five minutes later, I was there. I called my phone again, and saw a man, dressed in the track pant and sneakers of the morning walker, with a phone to his ear, sitting on a bicycle on the other side of the road. I waved to him. He waved back, quickly crossed over, and handed over my phone to me with a smile. I thanked him and took a quick look at my phone. It was none the worse for the fall and probably landed in the sandy roadside.

I asked the man if I could give him some money. He smiled again, shook his head to indicate no, and gently chided me for being so careless with my phone. He then enquired how much the phone cost. I informed him that I would need around ₹35000 to get a new 64GB iPhone 6S+, and was lucky that he was the one who found it. Seems Govindraj, which is his name, lives close by, is a regular exerciser at the same racecourse that I frequent and is employed at a workshop making submersible water pumps. One look at his rough calloused hands told me his job involved manual labour, and in India, such jobs are not well paid. Anyway, we exchanged numbers, shook hands and parted.

As I rode off, I reflected on how Govindraj is one of those people who are not too well off, but quite content with what they have. He is indeed a rare species and I was fortunate that it was into his hands that my phone had fallen.

Funny how things balance out in life.

On one hand, there’s Medium, a giant company who cynically takes money from writers in poor countries but refuses to pay us. On the other hand, there’s this gentleman with not much in his pocket who happily returns my lost iPhone which he could easily have sold off for some good money.

In a world that settles for Medium, we are lucky to have the Govindrajs who take the high road and inspire all of us to be better humans.

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