Monday, March 12, 2012

Strangers fed me. At my dinner time. May their tribe increase!

"X" and "Z" came with me all the way to the railway station platform to see me off.  I was immensely happy they did, because I have no idea when I would see them again.  Waving one's hand as the train leaves friends or relatives behind seems like a real goodbye, which no airport experience can duplicate.

We reached the designated spot for my coach just as the train's engine made its appearance.  Right on time we were.  Even before the paranoid me could get to the chart to ensure my name was there, "X" and "Z" spotted it, where all the passengers' names were listed in Hindi.  "They have your last name as "खे" instead of "के" remarked "Z" prompting an explanation of how I ended up preferring "Khé" over "" in changing to the identity that is now almost twelve years old. 

After dropping off my bag, I stepped out of the coach to spend the remaining minutes with X and Z.  "There are two older women there, and my lower berth seat has been taken" I told them.  It seemed like the coach was full of older people, perhaps all on their way to Shirdi.  After a few minutes of chit-chat, I jumped back into the coach and stood by the door as the engine's horn tooted, and the train started moving.  I waved out to "X" and "Z" until I could see them no more.

When I returned to my seat, the two older women had now been replaced by three older men.  One asked if I could trade my lower berth for his upper berth on the side.  "No problems" I said.  Perhaps he expected some other response; he started explaining his problem with his knee.  "I will take the upper berth" I interrupted him.  He expressed his appreciation through a firm handshake.

As I settled into my seat, and into the journey, it occurred to me that I hadn't brought anything with me to quieten my stomach at dinner time, which was only a couple of hours away.  I decided to merely sleep it off.

It was just about my usual dinner time when one of the older women, who was originally at my seat, offered me a plate full of lemon rice and a bonda.  "Oh, no, thanks.  I am fine" I politely lied.  She insisted I take it.  The man with whom I traded berths said in his loud voice that they had lots of food and that I ought to eat with them.

From the chit-chat, I knew that they were from Rajahmundry, and I worried that the lemon rice would be hot, hot, chili hot.  I carefully took a spoonful of that rice and ... no chilies at all.  Just the way I like it!

"Perhaps the bonda would be hot" I thought as I bit into it.  Surprise of it all--the filling was sweet.

I slowly ate this delicious meal, which was a wonderful surprise.  I was barely done when the woman appeared again to offer me another helping.  "Oh thank you so much" was all I said.

After dumping in the trashcan the well-cleaned out plate, I thanked the women once again for sharing their tasty food with me.  I then walked over to the gent to whom I yielded my lower berth.  "Thanks for the food" I told him.

When my travels began, I ran into wonderful people and hoped that I would meet only good people along the way.  It has been nothing but the best.  What an awesomely reassuring feeling it is to know that there are such folks, eh!

Yet again, I am reminded of Abou Ben Adhem:

Abou Ben Adhem
By James Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."
The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!
May their tribe increase, yes!  Here is to hoping for more such stories when I meet "X" and "Z," whenever that might be.

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