When I think of this iconic Peanuts comic strip character Snoopy, I think of joy, imaginativeness, laughter, cuteness, and a penchant for life. These are excellent associations with an entity, wouldn’t you say?
This may be strange or hard to believe, but I discovered Snoopy in my adulthood. I saw this Peanuts feature film and that too in an empty theatre as a twenty-four old back in 2015. Since then, I have been a huge Snoopy fan. I even got myself a stuffed toy and have since kept it as a symbol of all that Snoopy represents to me.
I remember when my childhood brother like friend, Poorak, invited me to visit him in the United States, my agenda was to be able to visit two places apart from meeting him, of course- The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and The Charles M. Schulz Museum (named after the creator of the Peanuts comic strip) in Santa Monica. Fortuitously, Santa Monica and the Charles Schulz museum turned out to be about an hour and a half drive from San Francisco. So I could cover both places of interest in one visit.
I was at the last leg of a really tiring tour of the states and also encountered the powerful pacific winds a couple of days back while taking a short cruise cum tour around the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz islands. As I once mentioned, the dialogue, “Dilli so hoon” doesn’t always work. The context for the dialogue came from the belief that I am used to Delhi winters, and San Francisco, no matter how cold it is, can not intimidate me, at least not in the Californian summer.
I could not have been more wrong. Life humbles you, and how!
The experiment of going on the cruise with a cotton tee and cotton jacket led to a severe case of cold and fever. Having just kept one day for the Museum visit before flying to my friend on the other side of the enormous land mass, I could not also afford to rest.
And so, chanting Krishna’s names to derive strength and eating whatever bland vegetarian food options I could find in the hotel, I decided to proceed with my plan. Seeking the help of a gentleman at the hotel I was staying, I fixed myself a ride to the museum.
WELCOME TO CHARLES M. SCHULZ MUSEUM
The ride to the museum was comfortable enough. The impeccable quality of the highways in the states is not exaggerated at all. The driver was also kind enough to play Hindi songs for me during the trip. It is funny and cute to hear the song, “jab bhi koi ladki dekhu mera dil deewana bole, ole ole.” No better ode to a Delhi boy, anyway. Witty universe, very witty.
The first thing apparent on the visit was the absolutely calm vibe of the place. The museum was formerly the office of Mr. Schulz. I’d describe the place as an American ‘village’. In the museum, they have:
☐ gallery of some Peanuts comic strips
☐ a small theatre to screen some short animated videos of Snoopy and the gang
☐ a section playing the biography of Mr. Schulz
☐ an activity center for kids to come and create some artwork with assistance from the museum curators
☐ the office of Mr. Schulz preserved
☐ an ice skating rink which was really cool to witness
☐ A warm puppy cafe (cute, right?) and,
☐ A store to buy Snoopy merchandise
After spending a significant amount of time soaking in the joy and wonder sparked by my blessed visit, I wondered how to fix a ride back to someplace I had to visit for work. I did not want to hail another phone taxi as it was way too expensive. For some weird reason, Uber doesn’t work for foreign nationals, and Lyft, another ride-hailing app, had my request for identity verification pending. Owing to my ill health, I just wanted a direct cab and not depend upon other public transport. Until then, I had relied upon buses and flights to travel around in America. I was even hesitant to seek the help of my kind friends and connections there as I did not wish to burden them.
So, I went to the reception and was greeted there by this graceful elderly lady who must have been in her fifties, judging by her skin, greying hair, and a kind aura that only develops if you have seen more than a few decades of life. Miss Jean tried talking to a few cab companies and mentioned they were quoting way too much for my destination. I agreed and thanked her for her help, and decided to contemplate the mode of travel while sitting around a lovely mural across the hall from the reception.
What happened next will remain etched in my memory as long as I live.
As I was fiddling with my phone, hoping against hope that Uber works, Miss Jean walked towards me and started enquiring if I could fix a ride or not. I told her about the Uber situation and thanked her again for her kindness. I also told her how much I loved the museum and how this was a dream come true for my inner child.
I was so stunned when she said, “I wish I could have given you a ride back but here, take this little gift (a snoopy stuffed toy) as a gift from our side and let Snoopy be your charm and guide to take you safely to your destination!”She even showed the way to the nearest ATM to try one last attempt at booking an Uber with cash while bidding adieu.
When I asked if there was anything I could do in terms of a positive review or something, she politely said, you reach back home safe, and I am just grateful you could make this trip!
I could only gape in disbelief and gratitude.
Pudina Hara and ₹1 change
Years back, in my teens, my mother asked me to get a strip of Pudina Hara from the nearby market. I didn’t want to go as a live telecast of a Manchester United game was just a few minutes away. But I knew if I didn’t go, my match-viewing experience would not be a pleasant one (🥲); I ran at full speed to the nearby chemist cum general store.
While handing out the strip of Pudina Hara, the shopkeeper quoted eleven bucks. In my frenzy to quickly complete the task, I was only carrying one ten rupee note. I requested the half-balding, ugly-looking ‘bhaiyya’ (I’m incredibly spiritual in my judgments, 😇) to take the ten rupee note. I’ll return in a short bit and give him the extra change. He replied in a stoic and somewhat sarcastic voice: “Sorry, get me change.”
Abay ganje (insert some beautiful, poetic Hindi abusive words I can’t write here), I wasn’t buying a bar of chocolate or some packet of chips here. Pudina Hara can be classified as a medicine! Also, was the economy THAT BAD during those days?
Since that day, I have never stepped inside that man’s store. I have noticed though he has lost clients directly proportional to the hair loss on his head. (I’m highly spiritual in my observations as well 😇)
Random Acts of Kindness: Gift of God
The Pudina Hara guy didn’t owe me a thing. But, one word of kindness and granting me the ‘big favour’ of letting me return the ₹1 credit later would have perhaps earned him a long-term client.
Miss Jean, for sure, didn’t owe me anything. I was a foreign resident, visiting her country for a brief period. Charles Schulz Museum may not be everyone’s top destination in the United States of America. Still, it doesn’t have any dearth of fans or visitors within that nation. And yet, here she was, giving away a snoopy toy worth $15-20 as a charm, being incredibly gracious to check in about how I plan on returning, and displaying a kind of hospitality that seems rare.
Maybe to the reader, that little act may not seem much. But from the perspective of a tourist in a foreign state, continents away from home, a thousand or so miles away from his friend within that state, in a physically sick condition—Miss Jean felt like Shri Krishna’s angel.
Whenever I think back on the incident or am reminded of it, I can’t tell you how abundantly my heart and soul send blessings to Miss Jean. I may never see her again, and she most certainly will not remember me, but one random act of kindness by her has immortalized her in my consciousness for as long as I’m alive.
As I write this, I also think how such lovely humans end up being ambassadors and representatives to the nation they belong to.
The key idea here is we never know how an act of ours can end up impacting another. I can now somewhat appreciate the tenets laid out by saintly souls of engaging in random acts of kindness daily or whenever possible. There is now even data-backed science to suggest that human experience and happiness are enhanced through giving, receiving, or even witnessing acts of kindness!
My entire American experience (and not just this particular incident) was a case study to rethink my ideas and opinions about things I have not personally experienced. What the mass media portrays about anything, in particular, can be so VASTLY different in experience— be it a faith, a nation, or a person.
To summarise, if receiving such grace and kindness feels such an overwhelming blessing, I wonder how would it feel to be someday at a stage of doing such an act of kindness without any expectation of reward or remuneration?
Thank you for reading one of the longest pieces I have written on this medium. I hope it sparks something useful within you.
P.S. Special mention and gratitude to Vidhi Bhabhi and Mansi ma’am for being my angels in fixing the then sick man’s ride from one place to another.