Oh Yes! It was with this brilliant man in the cover picture above. He is Professor Ashok Gupta from Ohio University’s College of Business sitting next to me in the Taj Express on 23rd January 2017. He was here in India to visit his family and friends. He had boarded the journey from Nizamuddin Station in New Delhi.
I joined him at the next station, Faridabad at around 7:35 am. We were also supposed to alight at the same destination, Gwalior. Now, one thing that I love about myself is that I am a bibliophile. And, that is also something which attracts me to people who read books. And, that was what got us into a binding with each other for the four and half hours of the journey ahead of us.
He had been reading a biography of some prominent figure whose name I can no longer recall. Meanwhile, I was engaged in reading one of my books on the Kindle device I carry with me. There was no interaction in the first half hour as we were both engaged in our own selves.
But then, out of curiosity I just enquired about the book he was reading. And, with that curiosity began a conversation which slowly extrapolated on to the state of education and politics in India, its economic transformation in the last twenty years, what the Indian Youth is up to in this country and a lot of other things.
He shared with me how he along with some NGO were able to gather some funds from Mahindra and Mahindra under their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) obligations, using which they installed computers, desks and chairs in a Government Secondary School in Gurgaon (Now, Gurugram) while buying books for the students from his own savings.
Meanwhile, I shared with him how even he could get an Aadhar Card now, as Government of India was offering those to NRIs as well. Also, I was his guide on the ground realities of present day Indian political scenario which he was largely an alien to. And, there were so many other subjects which we talked about.
It was around eleven or so when we both felt the urge to eat something finally and give our confabulations a break. And, so as I took out my box full of home cooked meal, I observed that he just had an apple to eat. I felt bad that an Indian who doesn’t reside here anymore, should have to travel that way, without any food, cooked at home with the warmth and love of a wife or a mother.
So, I offered him to join in the feast, as I had plentiful stocks that would run me all the way to another day. Albeit he wasn’t very comfortable, but after some persistence, he finally joined in. We shared the meals that my beloved mother had prepared, and with almost every bite he kept telling me how scrumptious the food was, and how grateful he was, while I just kept up the modesty 😛
Then we both went in turns and washed our hands. But, we still had an hour long of the journey ahead of us, and we had nothing much to do. And, we were both sort of intrigued to extract more out of the other person’s variegated experiences of American and Indian living respectively. And, thus, the chatter resumed. This time heavyweights like Donald Trump also featured in our discussion.
He shared with me certain political realities about how the Government in USA functions. And, this again was an elaborate discussion, covering a wide gamut of subjects. I then also shared with him some of my writations, which he read there and then on his phone. He appreciated my thoughts, knack for writing and philosophy. He was generous enough to even suggest some books that would help me widen my perspective.
And, that was how we both spent that journey in tandem with each other’s embrace. It finally culminated with both of us sharing our contact details with the other, and clicking a photograph (attached above) which I shared with him over email. It was an elaborate and great meetup and discussion during which I built a great banter with this older but sage man, who was all up for sharing of food and knowledge.
It was and remains the best train experience I have ever had with a stranger. Bliss!