Saturday, April 28, 2012

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En route to the Koyembedu bus stand, my cab driver kept his phone on loudspeaker while the woman on the other end gradually went from rapid-fire, trembling Tamil to outright crying, speaking in gasping bursts. The driver sat silently listening, while I sat behind him silently entreating. Say something… say something… say something… say something! Nothing. Phone rings and he refuses the call. And again. And again. Heart aches for them both…
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A family of five clambered onto the bus several hours into the journey, filing down the aisle to the back row, where the one empty seat on the bus – beside me – was quickly occupied by the veiled matriarch. Periodically she’d reach down to the youngest, hoist him into her lap, and exchange smiles and pecks on the cheek. During our snack break outside of Bangalore, the oldest daughter shyly worked up the courage to approach me, her mother smiling from behind. Where was I from, where was I going? And if you’re going all the way to Goa, do please eat here, as there will be no dinner stop in Bangalore… 
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We called each other back and forth, this friend of a cousin of a friend. Having met with trip fiasco en route, I’d had little choice but to get off the bus in Bangalore shortly after 10pm. The nameless friend coordinated with my auto driver, retrieved me to drive the last leg, and led me right up to the elevator, instructing me to go to the fourth floor, turn left, and knock. There, I was immediately welcomed by more smiling strangers, the aunt and uncle of a friend in Hyderabad. The next morning, as she served me a third(!) dosa, Auntie asked my name. I had already slept there, joined her in the kitchen while she cooked the remaining batter, and brokenly discussed our families. Here they were giving me a place to sleep, welcoming me with smiles and a laden plate, and they didn’t even know my name. I still don’t know their names, beyond Uncle and Auntie. In the afternoon, having assured that I’d booked a ticket back to Chennai, the couple hailed an auto, gave the driver stern and specific instructions, and sent me off with a brick of sweets, a phone number, smiles, and a warm squeeze of the hand…
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It’s the human factor. The crying woman, the family, the friend, the couple. Strangers whose very humanness suddenly seem to make everything ok. I’m not about to say “strangers are friends you haven’t met yet,” recalling a past comment on how that can land you in prison or some such thing, but finding the humanity in people, wherever you are – now that’s something, and it’s something you can find anywhere. Or rather, it finds you. No matter what’s happened or happening, no matter what has brought you there or what awaits you, these seemingly small things can bring a smile and a breath of peace. Even if it’s just one moment of reassurance, it’s more than enough to keep you going. To quote Aamir Khan’s “all izz well”: it may not solve the problem, but it gives you the courage to face it. It may only be that moment, but it gives you the strength to keep going and, if you’re listening, inspires you to return the favor sometime, just by holding on to that all-important thread of humanity.

1 comment:

  1. very nice post... true All izz well when we start looking for good side of people...

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