Invisible Samaritans Along the Road
"Give me a call when you get there"
At some point, we all have experienced care expressed by someone near and dear. At some level, it is, perhaps, natural and therefore, expected. But to be touched by random acts of kindness by strangers is neither completely natural nor expected.
I have met some of these strangers from different places around the country encountered at different points in time who share just one thing in common – genuine concern for another stranger's well-being. I have been a fortunate stranger; that recipient of care, concern, and warmth.
Samaritan # 1
‘Just leave your bag here and there’s a seat over there. Why don’t you go sit?’
Who: Passive-looking but equally concerned bus conductor, on seeing a 50ish kg me lug a 60ish litre backpack in a moving vehicle
When: En route to Mangalore aboard a KSRTC bus
Where: Madikeri (Coorg), Karnataka
Samaritan # 2
‘We saw those men approach you. Are they with you all? No? Then let us know if anyone bothers you. We are here and will take care of you all.’
Who: Friendly-server at a shack
When: New Year’s Eve
Where: Baga, Goa
Samaritan # 3
‘Yes, accommodation is available. How many persons should I block the reservation against? Just one? For yourself? Okay. You needn’t have to worry ma’am our facility is absolutely safe and suitable for a solo female traveller. Would you prefer a pick-up from the railway station?’
Who: B&B owner confirming my reservation over the telephone
When: Planning yet another solo trip
Where: Wayanad, Kerala
Samaritan # 4
‘Hope you all have had a good time. Your train should arrive in another 15-20 minutes. You’ve saved my phone number? Okay. Give me a call when you come by again.’
Who: Smiley-faced auto rickshaw driver who ferried us from the station and agreed to stay back to drop us later in the evening.
When: Over a day-trip to Sula Vineyards.
Where: Nashik, Maharashtra.
Samaritan # 5
‘Why are these two men at your table? They are not with you. Should I ask them to go sit somewhere else?’ Who: Young lad who was serving me my lunch When: Travelling solo during a long weekend Where: Gokarna, Karnataka
Samaritan # 6
‘Do call us and let us know that you’ve reached home safely. Okay? Do come over again. And keep in touch.’ Who: Homestay hosts When: When it was time to leave Where: Every single one of them through Kutch (Gujarat), Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), Spiti and Manali (Himachal Pradesh), rural interiors of Maharashtra
This is why whenever I have been told, "I do not understand how you are not afraid of travelling all by yourself!" - whether I’ve travelled solo or not - I’m not sure how to respond.
Be it through conversations – just like the ones above – and through gestures that sometimes revolve around autorickshaw drivers doubling up as local guides, who'll tell me more about a place than any guidebook or will simply watching over me only to ensure I safely get off one mode of transport into another, I’ve realised that I am eternally grateful for their company.
They probe you a little and in turn, allow you a glimpse into their own world filled with hope and questions. This reminds me of our jovial Sardarji driver from Delhi to Chandigarh. He had spent some of his early years driving a taxi in my very own city. And in spite of his hoarse itchy throat, we did chat about how drugs have infiltrated the minds and lives of the youth in Punjab.
Somehow our travel stories tend to veer mostly only around the places we see and the things we do. We don't always hear about the people we encounter - especially not the helpers and enablers. They deserve more than a fleeting mention. For it is these ‘invisible people’ who have become my guardian angels in a day and age when mass media seems to suggest that this isn’t a country for women.
On your next road trip, I do hope you take the time to not just notice these invisible Samaritans, but also know more and remember them.
This post was originally penned for the Travelyaari blog