It’s my last day in India, finishing off the last leg of this trip on my own. I had so many life changing experiences, it’s difficult to figure out how to succinctly put it all down in a single post. What I’m feeling right now in this moment, as I sit rooftop overlooking the busy street bazaar in New Delhi, is the kindness of strangers which has enveloped me. It’s something I write about often: being alone in a foreign place, and how strangers-momentary guardians, offer their love in simple yet immensely beautiful ways.
After spending a couple days in Rishikesh upon completing my yoga teacher training, I sat on a bench with too much luggage (still haven’t learned by now how to travel light), waiting for my train from Haridwar to New Delhi. I stood up knowing that I’d be sitting for quite some time on the train, and noticed the young woman who had been sitting beside me. I smiled at her and she smiled back. She reached for her phone, and without saying a word, I nodded and sat back down next to her. In India, travelers are a guest, and it’s considered a great honor to have you. Someone asking to take a photo of or with you is their way of saying, ‘we are friends, welcome to my country, and you are divine,’ To sum it up ;). We took a few selfies together, and for that moment, as we made a montage of silly faces at the camera, I felt like I was killing time with a friend I’ve known for ages. As she put her arm around me and came close, even resting her shoulder on mine, I embraced the moment and played along. I took my phone out and did the same. Though we never spoke a word the entire time, and after the photos were over we sat quietly in our own worlds again, it reminded me how easy it is to connect. All it took was a smile and an open mind.
Once I boarded the train, I noticed I was the only foreigner. An older woman looked at me with kindness and curiosity as I made myself comfortable on the sleeper train. She began asking me questions in Hindi which another passenger began translating for me. She repeated her answers to her female friend who shared her same interest in me. The sweetness in her eyes filled me with gratitude of her presence, and in that moment I understood how you can easily love someone you know nothing about. After about an hour or so on the train, her friend sat beside me. She reminded me of a grandmother. Her hair was white and she wore glasses. She sat comfortably crossed legged in her green baggy pants and matching sari. She asked me many questions about where I had been, what I was doing and about my life. Never speaking a lick of English. Another man who was seated next to us helped us translate to each other but mostly I tried to learn some Hindi words and figure out her gestures. She began feeding me an assortment of nuts and baked goods,some sweet and some savory, topped with spiced pickles that are a popular side here. At first I tried to kindly refuse, but it was clear she wanted to share and take care of me, so I made her happy as we sat mostly silent and smiling on the sleeper bed together.
I had been reading Shantaram while she was next to me, momentarily resting my book to talk with her or look out the window. The main character had just been ‘adopted’ as a son and brother to two men he barely knew, and in that moment I thought, this is my grandmother, and for that short, sweet little time, she was. My heart swelled with the synchronicity of silent messages which have been appearing like little flowers through cracks of concrete.
The two men who had helped me translate earlier, informed me of my stop and carried my bags out of the train, ensuring I was taken care of for the next part of my trip to my hotel. Over and over again, I have been floating with the current, hands reaching out to mine to help me along when the waters become rough or stagnant. Mama River Ganga, the constant purifying flow, you are with me.
I had been so stressed out about my flight getting changed to the wrong date and needing to figure my travel arrangements, but in the midst of the chaos, there has been so much love and compassion. I’m reminded that we come from so many stories and experiences, but it is possible to let that all fall away and to share the simple beautiful moment of now with each other.
The connections I have made here mesmerize me. Past traveling friends I have literally ran into, guardians masked as strangers, memories reinvented to the present, love evolving in new forms. The mystic of India is real, as is the mystic of life itself.