|This family from England saw me sitting by myself for my meal and invited me to join them|
While I was going around the village, a group - of what seemed like 2 newly-wed couples - approached me with a canon camera and requested me to take a picture. Selfies, of course, aren't possible, on traditional cameras. They wanted the grand entrance to the shopping area in the frame of the picture. I did the needful and we went our separate ways.
After I had gone around the village, I went to the restaurant I had chosen for dinner. It was a traditional, sit-down fare with tons of food. It did feel a little odd for me to be sitting on my own - more so since I seemed to have arrived quite early and was the only one in the restaurant at that time. Thankfully, in another few minutes, more people started to arrive. And who do I see - the same couples I clicked photos for 30 minutes ago. Now, when you are alone and feeling odd about it, there is no bigger relief than to see familiar faces. But I was soon disappointed since far from even acknowledging me with a nod, they took their seats in the row opposite to me like they had never seen me before.
Next to arrive was this family, evidently from their looks and accent, from a different country. They took the seats in the far corner to my right. I was just being served the accompaniments to main meal while everyone arrived. A minute or two later, the younger girl from the family came down to me and asked me if i'd like to join them for dinner. It was so nice to be able to join a group and have someone to talk to. I came to know that the family lived in England and the father had traveled quite a bit to Mumbai on work - information that came out when I told them that I lived in Mumbai. The wonderful company did add to the great experience of the sumptuous meal.
We walked out together and when I thought we'd go our ways, we started talking about this and that. The village had bonfires everywhere by then since this was january and almost 10pm. The girl and I sat next to a bonfire and got talking. The parents went for a walk on their own. I wonder even today what made her open up to me - a stranger - about her fears and dreams. She was just 22 and was back to living with her parents after college trying to decide what to do next. She wondered how she'd know if the right guy came into her life. Or whether she should trust her parents to find her someone. I told her my story of getting married to someone outside my community - not knowing if that'd help resolve her dilemmas. She changed the topic just as her parents came back from their walk, obviously not wanting them to know that she had been discussing personal stuff with a stranger. Maybe.
I am surprised at the clarity with which I still remember the whole incident. I think the fact that some strangers were nice enough to invite me over to share a meal was quite touching. In stark contrast to the behaviour of people I had just spoken to and yet cold shouldered by. That set me thinking. Indians aren't the most friendly people. You may find this view quite contradictory to what I hate about the US. But I guess our lack of basic courtesy is glaring compared to people of some other countries who'll wave a hello to strangers in an elevator. I used to find this quite amusing when I started traveling abroad and had people smile at me or wish me good morning just in a hotel lobby!
I am very aware that we are not a socially adept country. We, among other things, stare, we ask probing questions, we don't respect time, we litter and have issues following even a simple concepts like queues and traffic rules. We are not very trusting of others and so not very friendly either. If someone offers us help, we just assume there is a catch. And that's reasonable since we are too many people jostling for limited space and opportunities. And it is not possible for us to transform ourselves over night. But I think if there is one thing we can start with is to be more courteous to people around us. And a great start would be to smile at people. And I am saying this from personal experience. I can't remember the number of times I've had people stare at me rudely at supermarket lines, waiting to cross the road or just at a queue in the mall. Would it be too much to just smile since we belong to the same species and currently co-inhabit the same space? I have seen employees of cafes smile back at me because I smiled first. And I think that is the least we could do for the service we receive (or even not receive at times). Cliched but true - a smile is most certainly a crooked line that can set a lot of things straight.
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences with people in our country or abroad? I'd love to hear your views on this post. Waiting for your comments!
This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo hosted by BlogHer where I will write one post everyday this month.