I had just gotten into the train and was placing all my luggage in the right places when a woman with a foreign accent asked me, “Which one would be seat no. 10?” And as I turned back to help her out, it was then that I saw Susan for the first time. A foreign woman travelling in India. I showed her where her seat was.
I could see that she was having trouble placing her luggage under the seat. Ergo, I offered to help. She replied cheeringly, which left me chuckling. I mean, she had some sort of serious deal of excitement brewing in her body. I liked it. Anyways, once I was done assisting her with the luggage, she thanked me, and I returned to my seat.
Within the next few minutes, another man showed up and asked if I could exchange my seat with him as his wife has been allotted a seat in my compartment. As I was travelling alone, and the man was very polite, I didn’t find a reason to decline. And, surprise-surprise! That seat turned out to be seat no. 11, the one next to Susan’s.
And, that was how we both met. Over the travel that ensued, we spent a long time exchanging smiles from time to time, while she kept working on her iPad and I kept reading on my Kindle. She would also occasionally be clicking some pictures out of the train window and then she would get back to typing on the tablet.
Then all of a sudden she remarked something very positive about India while clicking a picture. Though I can’t recall what she said and what it was about, but it was this subject which kickstarted our conversation. And, from there on, we both went on to confabulate over a wide gamut of topics and kept shedding away our initial inhibitions that one naturally holds while conversing with a stranger.
She would tell me how is the life being an American is these days, and about Mr. Trump and the cliched American dream that very many of the Americans breathe and chase like a gospel. She also enlightened me on why she supports Climate Change. And, then she shared with me a lot about her life, all that she has done in her career, and the various domains she has worked into.
Uh wait! Hang on. I guess my write up is making it seem like it was just her blabbering all out and out, while I just did the job of offering ears to her words. Well, don’t get that perception. Actually, It was her and I exchanging the call to talk from time to time. And, she was a very patient listener, every time I would go on to gab at length.
When she talked to me about Mr. Trump, she also asked to me what I thought of PM Modi. She asked me of the general perception that Indian people hold about him and about BJP and INC in general. She enjoyed discussing politics and economics, so we turned out to be perfect travel mates. I must say that I wasn’t expecting an American national to be as aware of Indian politics as she was.
Anyways, then I also talked to her about why I am so sanguine about prospects of Indian economy in general, and why I believe Modi has a great opportunity at his hands to nail down his name in gold into the history of Modern India. She was really excited to know about all that. I also shared with her that I wish to pursue a career in writing domain, to which she responded with a very cheering response.
We went on to discuss bits of macroeconomic scenario in India and the USA, the geo-political rivalry between India and China, infrastructure boom in India and much more. When the Ticket Checker came and I showed him my Aadhar card for verification, she got quite intrigued and asked me if she could have a look at that card I was holding. She enquired if it was my Government Identity Card or something.
And, that led us into an altogether another fifteen minutes of chatter with me explaining her the entire concept of Aadhar and how it is the first and only such large scale unique identification program in the world, how it differed from the Social Security Numbers in USA, and how World Bank has been all gung ho at praising this project all this long.
I had been studying and following the subject for a credible amount of time now, so her asking me it’s intricate details just got me haywire, I guess. So, I blasted her off with a lot of information overdose! It was awesome though. The entire journey turned out to be a great experience. She showed me pictures she clicked in California, and also exchanged her contacts with me.
Then we also clicked a picture of us as a memory.
She told me that she was travelling to Jaipur in order to attend a conference on topics of science and spirituality in which she was also going to be delivering a speech. She was one of the guests, and she was really excited about it. She told me how she had been to India several times before, and how amazing her experience had been. And wait! There is one more thing.
She also told me how she too had come to participate in the mass movement of 2012 for Lokpal led by Anna Hazare! And, that was awesome to learn about. That led us into another big discussion culminating into us discussing the affairs of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, and the politics brewing up between his party AAP and the BJP who runs the center. Remember? She was a lot into politics.
I even asked her about the perception that a general American holds about an Indian, to which she had a number of good things to say. But the one that I thing that just lit up my face was this- “All sane Americans know that Indians who arrive in America to work are actually very hard-working people, who have studied really hard and smart for a sizeable part of their lives, and have sacrificed a lot to achieve all that they have.”
I was all so blushing after that for no reason. Stupid me. Moving on. Then when we bought a cup of Chai in the train, I also told her to try chai at some road side stall. I apprised her that those are the best tea makers she was going to find anywhere in India. Even better than the best of hotels. I don’t know if she will be giving it a try, but I am sure that she will like it if she does.
It was all just so awesome. We had both opened up so much, and had grown so friendly, that I now wonder how it all actually happened in a journey of just a couple of hours. We had grown so comfortable in each other’s company and embrace that I voluntarily offered to show her around in Agra, Gwalior and Jhansi if she ever plans to visit those areas. And, to that she immediately replied to me with the following-
“I would really love that. You know, you should really come and visit USA some time. It would be nice to have people as educated, open-minded and aware as you there. I live there in California, and my brother and I would love to host you. You can stay with us or with my nephew who is about your same age, and we could show you around. It a great place and you will love it.”
And, that just blew me away. This benign lady who didn’t even know me just a few hours ago was now offering me to plan a visit to the US and stay with her family! I mean, I was practically a stranger to her and yet she was so relaxed while extending the invitation. It just melted my heart right there and then. I could not stop myself from thanking her, though I could not say much as my slow processing head could not come up with much.
But, the level of trust that she had entrusted in me by inviting me to stay at her place, and getting me to meet her family, and showing me around, it just made my day. It was a huge deal for a maudlin buff like me. There is a lot more that we talked about. There is a lot more that we both shared. And, all those things that I aforementioned, and the things I just didn’t, they all in tandem someway just made us connect so-so strong and good.
And, this just made my day. Susan made my day. She made me smile with the unparalleled deal of trust she had rested in me. The compassion that she blessed me with was simply surreal. Bliss!