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The unexpected return of a valuable briefcase restored Sri's faith in humanity

Sri Pisharody and her mother at a train station in India.
Sri Pisharody
Sri Pisharody and her mother at a train station in India.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

After her father died, Sri Pisharody's mother moved to the U.S. to be near her family. But a few things needed to be finalized back home. So Pisharody, her young daughter, and her mother flew to India together. During the long flight, Pisharody laid out some ground rules for her daughter.

"In India, it's crowded. You have to stick with me and never trust the police officers or the auto rickshaw drivers because everybody wants a bribe and they'll try to cheat you," Pisharody recalled telling her daughter.

Pisharody had packed all of their passports, documents and other valuable items in a small briefcase. Upon landing, they hailed a rickshaw to the train station. When the driver dropped them off, Pisharody paid him, and then she turned around to make sure her daughter and mother were close by.

"Before I knew it, the auto rickshaw driver drove away with our briefcase that had my passport, our documents, our cash, everything in it," Pisharody said. "My heart sank. I started quivering. I didn't know what to do."

Sri Pisharody (middle) with her mother (right) and daughter (left) on their trip to India.
/ Sri Pisharody
Sri Pisharody
Sri Pisharody (middle) with her mother (right) and daughter (left) on their trip to India.

Her mother, who was 70 at the time, quickly sprang into action and headed to the police station, leaving Pisharody and her daughter at the train station. While standing on the front steps, a group of auto rickshaw drivers approached them and asked what was wrong. Pisharody explained the problem.

"And I was just so surprised because immediately, the auto rickshaw drivers banned together and they began searching the entire train station, going around the town and the marketplace ... trying to locate this auto rickshaw driver," Pisharody said.

As the drivers searched the town, Pisharody's mother returned with an entourage of police officers. They put on their sirens and joined in the search.

"As all this chaos is going on, the auto rickshaw driver who dropped us off comes slowly back to the train station and says, 'You left your bag in the car,'" Pisharody recalled.

When she looked in the rickshaw, the briefcase was exactly where she had left it. Nothing was missing.

"I just immediately thought of what I told my daughter that day when we were flying to India to never trust auto rickshaw drivers and police officers," she said.

"It just renewed my faith in humanity, but it also taught me that miracles really do happen."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brigid McCarthy
Autumn Barnes
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