Sonder (n) sohn-dehrr:

People, there are millions and billions of them in this vast world. Some of them are our family, many friends, few acquaintances and the rest? Well, they are those people who we see every day, but never remember their faces. We might share a few passing looks, even smiles at times, but never words. To put it in simpler words, they’re the Strangers.

Each person has their own story. A new chapter is added every day. Characters are introduced which might continue to appear till the end while the others just leave behind dead ends. But how are we to know who will make it to the end of the story? How are we to know what their roles are? How are we to know?

The other day your friend told you about this pretty girl they saw at the bus stop. A few days before that, you cracked a joke which you’d admittedly overheard another person at the grocery shop saying. (Your friends already knew that because,”Ha, you’re jokes are lame. How did this one make us laugh?”) Your mom got you a book which she saw in the hands of two ‘fangirling’ teens and knew at once you’d like it. These people, whose even names are unknown to you, somehow made it to your story. Have you ever wondered how many stories you’ve made it to as a stranger?

You walk among hundreds of people every day (well thousands in India). But one particular day, one particular nameless stranger will do that one particular thing that will change your life in that one particular way you couldn’t have imagined. I like to call it the ‘Make-Believe Moment.

These moments are when you notice that smile on the man’s face while he plays the flute every day at the side of the road. It’s the wonder on an old man’s face, at the old age home, the minute his first 3D movie begins. It’s the inescapable curiosity in the eyes of an underprivileged kid at the sight of your old books. It’s moments like these that alter us in ways we can’t try ourselves. These moments won’t be ones where everything stops, bright light flashes on you, you reflect on your life and finally attain enlightenment. It’s a rather quick motion. Whoosh! It comes and goes.

You see an old woman with two big bags standing in the moving train while you comfortably sit. After a few minutes, the lady next to you gets up and offers the same old woman her place to sit with a smile. Guilt plagues your mind and all you can do is smile, keep your head down and wait for your stop to arrive. The same day while traveling in the bus you see an old man hanging on to the handles with his dear life. You’ll think once, you’ll think twice but the third time, you’ll give up your seat to the man. Well, have a glance at his face right then. It will illuminate with a crooked smile and his thanks will be genuine. But that’s not all! The contentment filling your heart will be enough to light up your entire day. And this marks the beginning of the Ripple Effect.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been taught about the ripple effect in primary school. If not, the continuation or spreading of results of an event or action is known as ripple effect. How does the ripple effect relate here, you ask? Let me explain it in simple words.

What happens when your father admonishes you for something you weren’t accountable for, just before you leave for college in the morning? How does the rest of your day go – with you sulking half the time or with you not giving a fuck? Yeah, maybe half of you just don’t give a fuck, but the other half release their frustration and anger on one of their class mates instead.

The class mate in turn is pissed off for the rest of his day and falls into an argument with the cab driver while going home.

The cabbie goes home bugged and beelines straight for the bed, without hugging his kid goodnight.

The kid ends up crying himself to sleep with a thought he did something wrong for which his dad doesn’t love him anymore.

Do you now see what kind of a ripple effect I’m talking about? But worry not, for there is a way the kid can sleep at night with a big middle-tooth-missing grin on his face. And of course, the solution is a smile, duh.


Life’s too short to be sulking in your room, hating everything and making elaborate world domination plans. Go out! Be young, wild and free!

Moments don’t wait for you forever. They’re like the rare super fast trains which take you to Churchgate right after Mumbai Central on the day you’re late. You know this is your last hope at being on time because if you’re even a second late, you miss your first lecture.

If you let this moment pass by, there’s no guarantee there will be another one like it anytime soon. So why don’t we keep our eyes open and look out for our Make-Believe Moments? Why not write our own character in someone else’s story? Why not be the change our self?

Since we were toddlers, we grew up understanding that actions speak louder than words and mere words have the capability to harm more than any action will. I can’t guarantee the transition brought about will be a through a positive medium or even if it’ll result in something genuinely good. Life’s unpredictable that way, I’m pretty sure we’ve all learnt that the hard way. But where’s the fun without a little uncertainty, right? And of course, when Life gives you its special glasses, with which we can see through the fog in front of us, demanding us take a minute to actually stop and regard all the things and people around us, is one such whimsical moment in itself.

We alter lives every day – knowingly or unknowingly. Though they’re not always meant to be grand, they do make a difference. But to commence a change, you need two key ingredients – power and will. Not everyone has what it takes to change lives, but if you do manage to succeed at one, you’re bound to be remembered and credited by that person till their last breath.

I hope now you realize strangers aren’t just random people who exist around us. They have a purpose as a stranger, just like you do.


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