I had once been open in my distrust of the world and the people in it. But as I’d mentioned in my previous post, my dorm life served to erase a lot of that mistrust, leaving me with only a healthy measure of caution.
The world is full of surprises, I rediscovered as I listened to two of my friends narrate their experience of being lost in a strange city. They were part of a group of seven, part of a larger group of 40 from my college who had left for a training program at Bangalore, one of India’s largest metropolitan cities.
[Posted with permission from my beloved story tellers.]
“There were seven of us, and we’d just finished shopping for the evening. We were a little late to arrive at the bus station, and the usual bus we got on was nowhere to be found. Now, we couldn’t just wait for another, so we got on an AC bus that we thought would take us back to where we were staying.”
I nodded, my anticipation palpable. I had heard parts of the story from others, but to hear it from those who went through it? Any listener would embrace the opportunity with a full and happy heart!
“The fare was high, but we thought that was the cost of travelling by an AC bus. We’d asked the bus conductor, but both he and the driver told us the bus goes by the place. One of the passengers tried telling us something, but she didn’t speak English, and we didn’t get what she was trying to say. I think she meant that there were two places by the same name, but even she didn’t sound so sure, and we couldn’t take the chance. We got on anyway.” Anmariya added as she turned from her book to face us both.
“But even after half an hour had passed, none of the places we were seeing appeared familiar.” Christy added, the changing expressions on her face giving more depth to the rendition.
It was getting dark, and the seven of them were starting to grow apprehensive.
And then the bus stopped, and a young man stepped in, with the typical appearance of an urban youth. “He made us feel uncomfortable at first. We tried communicating with the conductor, but we weren’t very fluent in the regional tongue. Perhaps this new guy sensed our desperation, and stepped in to help.” Christy explained.
I was pleasantly surprised. The media had given me the impression that if I were in a dire situation in public, I would have to stand my ground all by myself.
But this time, not only was the youngster patient and helpful, but also generous with consoling words.
“Let’s call him the Angel.” I suggested, to which both my friends readily agreed.
The conductor was distraught at having misinformed the girls, and they persuaded the driver to turn around and take them back to the bus station. The driver did agree, but only for extra charge.
“But he DID agree.” Added Anmariya. “How many people would do that for a bunch of lost girls they didn’t know?”
They did turn back, but it was past 10:00 pm, and the bus station wasn’t a very good place to be in at that hour. The girls made calls to the rest of their classmates who were safely in their lodgings, and some of the boys assured that they will book a Uber cab for them.
“But when we stepped down at Majestic ( the bus stand), there was no Uber.”
The Angel meanwhile, had procured a guy’s number from one of the girls, and had an idea of the place they had to reach from the photos he’d sent. The Angel booked a Uber for them from his smart phone, and stayed beside them all the time, along with the bus conductor, the second Angel. The girls were subjected to malicious stares and suggestive comments from cab drivers in the area – sadly, a part of the society remains primitive- but the presence of the Angels kept them safe.
When the Uber did arrive, the Angels helped them all in. The cab could hold all seven of them comfortably.
“And when we were seated, the Angel waved to us with a smile on his face.”
The girls did reach their lodgings safe and secure, though it was way past midnight when they did, and one of them got sick. Few of their classmates did throw a few accusatory glances at them when they arrived, as if they’d brought it all upon themselves, and I wasn’t surprised.
Friends could behave like strangers sometimes, and that’s because they too are, in the end, part of the society.
But even that didn’t destroy the magic of the story. The kindness of strangers, least expected yet crucial in moments such as these, was just too touching for me to think of anything else.
They didn’t know his name, and he didn’t know theirs. And yet had they been without him, the story wouldn’t have ended the way it had. Just how many people do we have to be thankful for? Everyone, I suppose.
By the time Christy and Anmariya were done with their story, it was way past our bed time. We turned off the lights and got into our beds, but then I noticed a faint blue-green light twinkling under Christy’s bed.
“Look, you guys. A firefly.” I told them, my voice full of sleepy fatigue, yet with child-like excitement nonetheless. Fireflies were a rare sight in our urban households, and they always took me back to my childhood days, some of which I used to spend in my mother’s ancestral home in a quiet village.
They saw it too, and I smiled as I watched it, feeling my eyes grow heavy. The firefly twinkled, a lone star in the ink-black night, like a story of hope in a world I believed was dark.