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An Unexpected Friendship In An Unknown City Taught Me What Humanity Means

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By Geet Rathi:

Random and gratis acts of human kindness make you believe in humanity again. Even hearing stories of such incidents are profoundly uplifting, but when it happens to you, the message gets etched in your mind and heart. It happened with me too.

I had decided to go to Kozhikode for my interview for IIM Kozhikode when it knocked on my door. I could have chosen Bangalore as the interview centre, but I decided to go there. I love travelling and I wanted to see the kampus (that’s what they call it there) as I had heard it was one of the most beautiful IIM campuses. So I took my bag and I was off to Kozhikode.

I had travelled alone many times and often without planning as well. I just had to spend 15 odd hours in Kozhikode of which my entire afternoon would be spent in the interview itself. I decided not to make reservations but go there and hunt for a cheap lodge for a while, just to freshen up. I took a bus from Bangalore to Kozhikode and reached Kozhikode at around 4:30 a.m. It was pitch dark outside and I could see many lodges near the bus stand. I headed over to one of the lodges.

I politely asked the person at the reception if they had a single occupancy room for the day. The guy without even checking just said that there were no single rooms and only double AC rooms were available. I asked him how much would it cost. He replied with a figure that threw all my ideas of Kozhikode being a cheaper city than Bangalore out of the window. He made me feel as if I wasn’t out of Bangalore yet. I just turned around and decided to walk over to the other lodges.

Three more lodges and the exact same story. There was a ploy and I was smack in the middle of it! Four lodges and all of them just had a double AC room vacant and nothing else? I was frustrated by now. The sun was peeking, ready to rise. I decided to wait for a while and try at the other lodges a little later once the sun rises, hoping it would make them a little less greedy. The bus stop looked even more depressing a place to wait, so I just took an auto to the beach which was a couple of kilometres away from there. It was early morning and just a there was an eclectic audience, some playing football, others jogging and some sprinting. Amidst all that chaos and the sea waves, I felt at peace. I just sat down in the sand with my bag.

img_20160216_071005_hdrAfter a while, I started interacting with a few people who were passing by. Some of them were polite and answered my questions and queries about directions to reach the IIM campus. Some couldn’t converse in English but were still trying to explain with gestures and a lot of arm-waving. I started moving around and walking along the beach. I saw this one person sitting on the bench after jogging and catching his breath. He had a smiling face and seemed open to conversation. I headed over to him, greeted him. A few words out of his mouth and I could make out that he was from the same part of the country as me – Rajasthan.

We Rajasthanis have a typical style of speaking and it’s evident if you pay close attention. I took a guess and spoke to him in Marwari (the tongue of Rajasthanis). He beamed at me and I knew I did not need any other hammer to break the ice between us. We got into a conversation and I explained to him my cause of frustration. After listening to me he suggested that if I need to change and rest for a while, I should instead head over to his house which was very close by. He offered me that without hesitating for a moment. We had just met! I would like to think that I come off as a very trustworthy person, but this act of his said more about him than it did about me.

I wasn’t sure about the whole thing so I tried to politely decline his suggestion, but he insisted a lot of times and even suggested I wasn’t being a ‘true Rajasthani’ at heart by declining. I could see he really did want me to come over and he meant it. I agreed and we decided to walk over to his house. He was telling me about his family while we were en route and about his life, he made me comfortable pretty soon. We walked and reached a small enclave where on the second floor he had his house. I nervously entered his house, the door was open, which was pretty much reflective about the family as well.

I was sitting on the sofa, while his wife came out and he introduced me to her saying, “He is like family, he is also from Rajasthan and is a Marwari like us.” That’s it. No more explanations and the three of us had a lively conversation for quite some time. They were extremely welcoming. He soon called out his three kids who came and stood in a line, and introduced themselves to me. Again, very polite and courteous kids. He then gave me a room to myself to change, freshen up and take some rest. I got ready, all suited up, ready for the interview. I still had a good four hours before the interview but decided to get ready and leave from there as I didn’t want to push too much on their courtesy.

I came out and he wasn’t ready to let me go so early, while we were negotiating, breakfast was served, delicious smelling and piping hot poha with bhujia sev. There was no way I was going to say no to it. This was followed by tea and again a wonderful conversation about different things, life in Kozhikode and what not. They put aside their morning schedule just for some stranger. I felt very humbled and grateful to these people, who were trying to make my short stay in Kozhikode so comfortable. Two hours had passed. It was time.

Just when I thought they couldn’t have done any more, he made his driver drop me as close as possible to the campus, which was around 30 kilometres away from there. While leaving they asked me to give them a call once I was done with my interview, so that the could show me around the city as my bus was scheduled to leave late at night. I had no words. I left there thanking them, but obviously, nothing that could have been enough. I just hope my eyes conveyed the gratitude that I felt for the family. Post the interview, I didn’t have enough time to spend with the family, but I did drop them a message and explained the situation. I wish I had taken a picture with them, but I couldn’t.

Even today, when I think of them I feel so moved by their hospitality and humanity. They had no obligation, no need of inviting me over and making me comfortable. But they did. Why? I can never know, but I sure hope people like them thrive and get rewarded with happiness in their life, for bestowing happiness in others’ lives with their acts – acts of humanity. God knows we need more people like them. After this incident I am one of those people too, they made an impression on me, inspired me to be like them and it was lasting.

Thanks to them, I was no longer the stranger in Kozhikode.

Banner image credit: EyesWideOpen/Getty Images.

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