It is imperative for us to interact and connect with people around. After all, man is a social animal. I realised the importance of interactions and connections early in life. As a child, I always found it easy to make friends. The boy from the corner house, who loved cricket and spoke very little, was my friend; the shy girl from dance class; the maid’s daughter who occasionally came home–all were my friends. These people brought so much happiness to my life.
Things change as you grow. When I was sent to a boarding school, I found a bigger turf to make friends. As children and teenagers, it is easier to make friends. But as an adult, I have observed that some of my peers find it hard to befriend strangers. I, on the other hand, make friends wherever I go–in the lift, at the flea market, on a solo trip, in the parking lot… There is some amount of extroversion that is needed, I agree. But if you can let go of your inhibitions, you too might find yourself forging strong friendships.
From my experience, I have learnt two things–friendships with strangers can be life-changing and they may or may not last forever. But for the fleeting moments they last, they are worthwhile. Let me try and convince you with these three encounters I had and how they brought memorable friendships into my life.
Girl at the bus stop
Her face was familiar. I had seen her earlier in the same stop waiting for a bus, probably to go to work. We had only exchanged glances a long time ago. I had thought she was haughty. Though we took the same bus nearly every day, we never talked. But one day, it was just the two of us at the stop. The bus that had taken its own sweet time to arrive looked like a heavily pregnant dog about to pop. At that instant, both of us looked at each other with a hopeless smile. This was not the first time we had witnessed something like this, but this was the first time both of us muttered ‘Not again!’ in unison. We broke into a laugh. We had been strangers until then. But something about that laughter made us feel like we had known each other forever, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We don’t meet every day, but when we do, we have a hearty chat about life, death, and everything in between. Looking back, I realise first impressions are not always right.
We spoke all night about books, movies, and music. That night did not seem as long as I had imagined. She had offered me a sense of comfort and solace, when I had no one to care for me.
Angel in the hospital
She was alone in the general ward, nursing her ailing mother. She glanced at me, sympathetically. ‘Why is the patient all alone? Doesn’t she have anyone with her?’ she seemed to think. Morning turned into evening and I dreaded spending the night alone, in the midst of strangers. As I lay in my bed, staring at the roof, I felt a warm touch on my cold hands. Her sympathetic eyes were accompanied by a reassuring look on her face. She had a novel with her. “Do you like reading?” she asked. “That is all I do all the time,” I told her. We spoke all night about books, movies, and music. That night did not seem as long as I had imagined. She had offered me a sense of comfort and solace, when I had no one to care for me. This friendship–though it did not last longer than five days–made a lasting impression on me. Who would have thought a stranger could be so compassionate! I suppose we often underestimate humanity; we can be a kind lot.
Guide at a getaway
I was at a point in life, when everything around me seemed too much to handle. I wanted to get away from family and friends. So, I took a solo trip. The five-day trip began on a fantastic note. I got all the time in the world to introspect and contemplate during the luxurious hotel stay I had spent a fortune on. I enjoyed my ‘me’ time and spent the first two days lazing around on the beach. Then, I started feeling lonely. Apart from exchanging pleasantries with the hotel staff, I had barely spoken to anyone. One morning, when the housekeeping staff came to clean the room, she suggested, “You seem bored, why you don’t move to a hostel? I have heard many say it’s fun.” It got me thinking. And the very next day, I moved to a hostel. At the breakfast table, I met this woman who was making tick marks on the items of a list. I was trying to slyly peep into her journal. She caught my eyes and gave me a million-watt smile. She told me how she believes you never know what tomorrow brings, and how she makes it a point to fulfill all her wishes and tick them off one by one from her bucket list. That was the beginning of a lovely friendship that taught me an important life lesson–to live in the moment.