A Women’s Day Letter To An Affectionate Stranger

Dear Stranger-Woman,

I am a stranger to you. You don’t need to give me attention, smile at me or speak with me, but you did. I never paid attention to you initially, immersed in my own world of trying to impress my new boss and colleagues at my new workplace.

We hit it off soon. We did not need words; you could not understand mine and I never understood yours. Yet our relationship blossomed. You were like the oasis to the barren desert, the only person who ever smiled at me when I entered the office. When all my colleagues did not even take time to ask my name or acknowledge my presence, you gave me all the attention I wanted. Maybe you felt pity for me for being the only girl in the whole building, but I do not want to put a reason behind it; I just want to cherish and bask in your affection.

I never understood Oriya or the local language you spoke. But unbeknownst to me, your words started making more sense to me, though your language did not. I understood when you asked me to learn your language so that we can converse more. I wish I did, so that I could get to know you more and give you the attention you truly deserved.

I never drank tea, but for you I did. You wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and like a strict mother reprimanded me to drink it. You used to check my water bottle so many times a day to fill it again. Even if I had taken a little sip, you filled it back immediately with the water brimming and spilling everywhere when I opened it, just like your love.

Some days, when I was not feeling well, you used to ask me, in your own way, if I was well. When I used to feel left out, sitting silently without having anyone to speak with, you came as a saviour with your bright yellow silk saree and the big, round red bhindi on your forehead, with your hair, combed back and knotted in a big round updo.

When I was engrossed in my work and casually turned to the side, there you would be, standing on the other side of my cabin with your hands rested on the partition and looking at me with caring eyes radiating such warmth that, for a second, I would feel at home away from home.

You used to give me a ‘sorry’ smile when I was sad. You used to give me a ‘cheer up’ smile when I was upset. I never understood how you could decipher my feelings when I thought I had successfully hidden it. Sometimes you used to console me, not by words, but by your sympathetic smile and compassionate eyes.

One day you took me by surprise when you gave me a large, bright red rose and had kept a slightly wilted smaller rose on the side of your hair. I never had the habit of keeping flowers on my hair but that day, I did.

It is a wonder that two people with such extremely different cultural backgrounds, educational backgrounds and language barriers could bond without any common ground. You loved me like a mother, you understood my necessities before I could ask for them, you were one among few who could break my brave façade and look at me for who I really am, and you were the one person who did it in the shortest time. We spoke more through our eyes than by words.

You used to ask me about my family, about why I was staying so far from home. But you never asked my name and neither did I. It is puzzling that two people knew so much about each other, but never their names! Maybe that’s the beauty of the bond we share. Names are for people to remember, to call or to talk about. We never did any of that. It was just us, our eyes and our smile. Nothing else mattered.

We have an incomprehensible relationship that no one could ever discern. I could call you ‘my mother’, but I don’t want to put a label on it. It is much too pure and fathomless to limit it to a single label. Until you came, I never knew that I missed out on such a relationship. Now that I have it, I never want to let that go.

You probably wouldn’t understand the concept of women’s day. But, on this day, I would like to honour you, the invisible you who walked around in the office either with a broom or a tea tray or water or a waste cloth.

You are the love that nobody recognized.
You are the compassion that nobody cared for.
You are the beautiful smile that nobody looked at twice.

You are the unsung hero that everybody needs but nobody knows.

Happy Women’s Day, My Special Stranger!

With loads of love,
The Girl Whose Morning You Brightened Everyday

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