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Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Thank You Letter to a Stranger

Dear Stranger,
Sometimes it just helps to know that there is someone out there who cares; even though it is a total stranger. Like yourself. 

I was having difficulty in explaining to the man at the ticket counter where I wanted to go. I did not speak the local language, and my gestures and sign language only further exasperated the ticket guy. The crowd behind me was getting impatient and fidgety. And then the ticket guy lost it. He let loose a string of anger ridden words in a language that I don’t understand; I was close to tears. And then you stepped in. You had been privy to the futile conversation that I was having with him. You were standing behind me in the queue and came to my aid. Your voice was firm and determined and the guy simmered down. I was having trouble holding back my tears. You turned to me, touched my arm and smiled, asked if I wanted some water. I smiled weakly, and nodded yes. You gave me your bottle and then began explaining the situation I had gotten myself into. 

As someone who was new to the city, I now think in retrospect that I should have done my homework better before embarking on the journey. You told me that all the buses were pre-booked because it was an extended weekend, and everyone wanted their share of leisure and bliss. The only option left was the bus which left at eight in the evening. I remember nodding my head to everything that you said, while silently admonishing myself and thinking that it was a vain attempt on my part to try and continue with the trip. Eight o’ clock was still three hours away and I was stuck in the middle of a hostile crowd, with a rucksack on my back, which sonorously screamed the word – ALIEN.   

With a legion of convoluted thoughts running around in my head, I suddenly realized that you had stopped talking and were now scrutinizing my eyes intently. As I looked up, you gave me big, warm, encouraging smile; I felt a little better. It assured me, gave me fortitude. When I told you where I was planning to go, you grinned at me and disclosed that we shared the same destination; from then onwards you took me under your wing. You coaxed and cajoled and then bargained with the man at the ticket counter and successfully obtained two tickets. You helped me with my luggage in the overhead cabin and suggested that I take the window seat. With a wink you added, “Just in case you feel sick going up the mountains.” After settling down beside me, you didn’t burst into a rambling conversation, probably because you gauged my reticent side. You made minor observations from time to time; you lamented how I won’t be able to see the grand view of the valley since it was dark outside. You put me at ease, being perfectly conscious of the fact that I was traveling alone and would reach in the middle of the night to a place where I had never set foot before. 

When we stopped midway for a fifteen minute break, you insisted on buying me coffee. Even though I am not a caffeine person, I savored the coffee because it was a wet, chilly night. I finally cracked my shell and told you a little about myself. I told you that I was a modern day drifter; yes, I do have a job, but I usually have the convenience of working from home. That allowed me frequent and regular breaks, so that I could pursue my passion of travel. I told you that I was visiting a few friends who had just moved there and knowing about my zealous enthusiasm of travel, they had invited me to stay with them. I think I dozed off for a few minutes, but I could sense your watchful gaze over me, even in my slumber. I felt your hand gently shaking my shoulder, urging me to wake up as we neared our stop. It was a quarter past twelve at night when we got off and there weren’t a lot many people at the bus station. You helped me with my luggage, taking it out gently, as if it was a baby carrycot. I took out my phone to call my friend, but my phone was dead. You readily offered me yours, but before I could make the call, I heard my name. I turned around to see my friend walking towards me. I turned back, gave your phone back and smiled. You smiled back and we held our gaze for a few seconds. You extended your hand and I shook it. You wished me a pleasant stay and walked off, perhaps forever out of my life into the darkness. 

I don’t know your name, we hadn’t exchanged names. Or numbers. Or addresses. The chances of us meeting again is extremely remote and improbable; we live in an insomniac and athletic world, where a multitude of people like us move every single day, with their bags, and larger than life dreams. But I want you know that I will be eternally grateful to you. Sometimes all it needs is the will to care, the rest just works its way. The possibilities are infinite and I believe in our future, our world, the people, us, you and me, I believe in them all.  I end by saying a simple thank you.

The Stranger You Saved at the Ticket Counter

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