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Silverine recently posted a blog to point out the role of compassion in Western societies. After reading it, I recollected a story told by my English teacher from his experiences in India.

Mr. Born was then just Peter and in his own words "another diplomat brat" based in Delhi. But, unlike many diplomat kids, Peter took some time to travel through India. It was during one of those journeys that he found himself hungry and sitting in a third class train compartment passing through India's hinterland.

It was one of those compartments that was packed to the brim with people - the kind that you watch with mild amusement if you have never seen arms and heads sticking out of the window in reckless abandonment. The kind with yellow metal bars that poke through your skin and leave indelible imprints if you lack a thick hide.

And Peter was hungry. But he had a dilemma as the train pulled into a station. If he left the compartment, he could lose his seat, but worse still, there was no knowing when the train was scheduled to leave. So he could miss it while his tea was being brewed. But, we all have angels watching over us and to Peter's happiness, his fellow passenger noticed his discomfort. A stranger who seemed willing to help Peter. He offered his assistance and convinced Peter that as a native, he was more experienced in these matters. So Peter gladly forked over a hundred rupee note for lack of change. The stranger stood up and left the train. Peter waited.

And waited. As the train jerked and slowly started leaving the platform, the truth gradually dawned on Peter. What's a hundred, you might ask. Well, it was Peter's last remaining money. And he was still hungry.

Most people would break down under these circumstances. Peter tried hard, but even he had to acquiesce to a wet outburst of tears. His neighbours felt awkward. One of them start giggling with his companion at Peter's expense. It was too much and he expelled his rage in fluent, unaccented Hindi, "Chup ho jao!" Not so strong for most people, but coming from an American seated in a train full of village and town dwellers, it was effective. The murmur died down soon, only occasionally interrupted by Peter's dying sobs.

Unbeknownst to him, a man sat in the hallway in that tendon-stretching huddle that is characteristic of elderly men. One of the millions of farmers ferrying between their villages and the towns to market their produce. He had been a mute witness to the whole situation until now. He stood up, pulled a handful of bananas from his gunny bag and walked up to Peter. He laid them in his lap. It was an offering of help from a stranger who had otherwise no reason.

Slowly, one by one, each passenger handed a few rupee notes to Peter, until he had enough to see him all the way home. And all it took was one kind soul.

Big things happen with small gestures.

An economics professor, tired of teaching theory, lent a hundred rupees to a woman as a practical experiment once. Today, Grameen bank lends money to 5.6 million members who come from poor families.

A man marched to the sea to make salt. Today, a nation of a billion goes to sleep with better prospects.

Big things happen with small gestures.

From the BBC website:

A lot of common errors were transposing errors, for example: First Aid Centre was Fivst Aicl Centrt. Another sign read: Help potect the cultural relecs, help protect the railings.
Mark Quan, Toronto, Ontario

I have two favourites from spending many years working in China. At the Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi'an a sign said "Cherishing Flowers and Trees" which meant "keep off the grass". The other on a cruise on the Yangtse River, "Don't Bother" instead of "Do not Disturb" on the cabin doors. There were many others but these always made me smile.
Lee Tomkow, Santa Barbara, California

Whilst living in Beijing about a year ago, I came across a park in a residential area in the Shunyi district which (although intended for use as a 'dog park') was translated to 'Dog-Bark Park'. Not to mention an apartment building which, for some bizarre reason beyond my knowledge was named "An Australian Lady and Her Lifestyle".
James, Spring, TX, USA
At the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China there is a sign that reads: People and flowers, plants help each other in breath, if you pick the flowers they will die, and you will reduce your life too. A lovely message somehow gone somewhat wrong.
Ollie Boothroyd, Windsor, UK

"Site of jumping umbrella" (paragliding site)
Michael Pye, Cambridge, UK

"No striding". On a menu: "The oil explodes the shrimp". "Pleasant aftertaste". On a sign: "Keep fire in safe hands, we live in a safe world."
Emily, Bremerton, WA, USA

My favourite is: "Please take advantage of the chambermaids" on a hotel brochure.
Andrei Pogonaru, Bucharest, Romania

At one of the bigger train stations (and I'm kicking myself right now because I can't remember which one!) there is a huge, and I mean huge, sign which states simply "Question Authority". Remember, this is an incredibly heavily controlled officially Communist state. The sign is merely pointing to the help desk.
Peter Douglas, Edinburgh

The taps in my hotel room in Beijing had a fancy engraved sign "No Drinking Without Dealing" - I suspect they meant "boiling". There are so many examples but my favourite may have been at the Ming Tombs "Environmental Sanitation of the Scenic Spot Needs Your Conserve" - indeed it does.
David Graves, Seattle, USA

Forbidden: Prostitution, gambling and drag abuse!
Lou, Beijing, China

I have stayed in Shanghai many times for work. The new subway at Jing An Temple was proudly opened early for tourist trips. All the east exits said "East Exit". All the west exits said "Wast Exit". The next trip back the offending words were covered with duct tape.
James Phethean, Helston UK

When I was living in Beijing in 2000, I saw a sign in front of a rock garden in the Forbidden City that warned tourists "Please do not climb the rocketry".
Craig, California

Airline Pulp - The only English description on a snack package handed out with drinks on Southern China Airways.
Andrew Hobbs, Henley on Thames, UK

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