My birthday has always been a time for me to reflect on where my life is going. But this year I ignored my birthday so New Year is going to serve that purpose. I’ve had a couple of realizations in the past week that I want to put down so I don’t lose sight of them.

Some time ago I wrote this post the point of which was basically how the environment you live in can influence you and how one needs to be vigilant and proactive in not absorbing the worst of the environment around you – and how some environments make that harder than others.

Recently, I have had to face that I have absorbed some not-so-positive things from living in Hong Kong. I have become one of the Impassives – the kind of person that turns a blind eye and doesn’t volunteer help unless asked. A few days ago while getting into the turnstile in the MTR, the woman in front of me dropped her pen and didn’t notice. In my previous life, in India, I would have picked it up and gone after her and given her the pen. I didn’t. I glanced at the pen and then swiped my card and carried on. Granted, at this stage in my pregnancy, it’s a little hard for me to bend over and to run after anyone and then I’d have the hassle of communicating in gestures (because she was clearly not one of the English-speaking ones nor did she look friendly) that she had dropped her pen. But I should have done it. I didn’t because it is so normal in Hong Kong not to. Nobody does it. I decided then and there that I need to make an effort to counteract this tendency to not get involved even in the most minor way.

Yesterday, on the MTR, the seat next to me freed up and a little boy sat down while his mother stood in front of him. Then the seat on the other side of me freed up. In India, I would move up so the mother and son could sit together. People in Hong Kong don’t do this. It’s not their problem. But this time I moved. Such a small thing and yet, I had become a person who would not consider even the most minor inconvenience to myself.

Living in Hong Kong has perils for me because I am naturally anti-social. I am very comfortable moving among people who don’t make eye-contact, who don’t indulge in the usual pleasantries, who don’t interfere in other people’s lives. But even I know that in indulging in this kind of behaviour there is a line one crosses after which one becomes a society of automatons. The faces of people on the MTR are not only impassive they look dull and unhappy. I realised I don’t want to be one of them. So I must force myself to react, to smile, to catch people’s eye, to wish my neighbours good morning.

That’s my first resolution for the coming year. When out on the street, be the nice one.

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