A throbbing headache and a steaming cup of adrak chai (meant to relieve the former) were the highlights of my Tuesday evening. At 8 pm, I sat at my favorite chai place, waiting for my usual order of Vegetable Maggie. My little diary sat open in front of me. I took a sip of my tea, picked up the pen and wrote: August 2017. This was basically my deadline for quitting the project that is responsible for my headache in the first place.
I was having one of those days – when the brain stops functioning post lunch. And working on an important project only becomes more challenging…
All the other tables were occupied by groups of 2 to 4 people – friends, office goers catching up on a post-work bite, couples. I sat at my usual, the only two seater table in the small space.
The door opened and a young girl walked in. A quick glance up at her and I sensed she was “new”. Her office ID card looked new and was still around her neck. Her laptop backpack seemed to have survived the wear and tear that is normally found on an office goer’s bags from commutes. Her office clothes were perfectly formal – not a sleeve folded, not a button opened at the neck. And then, there was her face. A complete refreshing look that was free (or yet to be tarnished) by the weariness that every city dweller usually has! She was fresh-faced and hopeful – a rare sighting in the maximum city.
She ordered some food to be parceled and continued standing at the billing counter. The wait looked like it would be a long one. After a few minutes, our eyes met. Grumpy ol me and smiling her. Somehow, at the same time, we both looked at the empty chair opposite me.
I signaled to her “Would you like to sit down while you wait?”
“Yes please! Thanks…” she looked relieved. We smiled. I smiled too – a genuine from-the-heart warm smile! It actually felt good.
We got talking (it’s odd sitting opposite a stranger, in such close proximity… you run out of places to focus on apart from the person’s face!).
Turns out my instinct was right – she was 2 days old at the company whose ID tag she still had around her neck. She was new to Bombay, and was settling in a women’s hostel near to her office.
“Do you get food at the hostel? Is it good?” I began interrogating. It was rather refreshing to talk to a complete stranger, nice and unassuming. In fact, talking to her reminded me of my first weeks in Chennai. Questions about her hostel, her travel, her knowledge about the city, whether she had local friends or colleagues who would help her when needed… they seemed to stir up nostalgia. And boy, did that feel good! It took me back to a time when I felt like a survivor – like I was in the face of challenge after challenge, all alone, but never giving up. It reminded me of my worth (something that many employers/companies these days tend to overlook). It reminded me that I was a fighter, that I have been thrown out of my comfort zone a bazillion times, and I bounced back always.
It also made me realize that here was a sweet, pleasant, soft-spoken young woman, fresh out of B school, perhaps with dreams in her eyes, serious about her new job and career, and waiting to make a life for herself.
It filled me with hope. It filled me with a small prayer for her, for her to not get jaded too soon – with job, with life, with friends, with relationships, with family or with Bombay. I hoped sincerely she would have the courage and the wisdom to take any experience that would come her way.
This city (hell, any new city) can be tough. But it also makes for an excited beginning.
Before we knew it, we were exchanging notes about the city. Her parcel arrived and she got up. For a second, I thought I should exchange numbers, but the introvert in me suddenly decided to wake up *rolls eyes at self*.
As though she read my face, she said, “I’m sure we’ll bump into each other at this place. I really like it!” I replied, “Yes, definitely. And next time, we can have dinner together!” She smiled in agreement and stood up.
Picking up her heavy bag, she extended her hand to me. “I’m Caroline.”
Here’s a small example of how the smaller things in life are sweeter. We are so often consumed by our selfish thoughts & our own universe, we overlook the smaller moments that could be.
If I had been consumed by my self-pity or need to be grumpy, I would have never looked up or bothered to offer her a seat while she waited. Believe it or not, the rest of my night (journey back home) was very pleasant. Because my mind had relaxed itself, my body was no longer in a fight or flight stance, and I had actually done something different from my usual routine.
Just once in a while, try it. No matter how crazy a day you’re having or how bad things are in life, try striking a conversation with a stranger. The bus driver. The lady next to you in the train. The vegetable vendor. The auto driver. The peon in your office. The cleaner in your street.
You never know who help turn your frown upside down 🙂