A Stranger’s Perspective

by Varunika
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At a time when it is difficult to view the world and its inhabitants as virtuous and upright, I thought it would be apt that I share a small incident from my life. My own world view is far from utopic, but I do believe that the world is just as good as the goodness that we bring along. If by the process of sharing a pleasant experience, I can elevate even a few spirits, then it is worth the effort.

In the year 2012, I accompanied my husband (a mariner) for his sailing contract. Our first sail together was from Vishakhapatnam to Indonesia. Now Indonesia did not appeal to my touristy mind. I had been bragging about the American, Canadian and Brazilian Visas on my passport, to my entire family, up until the sail began. In fact, I was mightily disappointed to know that the first port was a small Indonesian Island by the name of BULI. I consoled my grieving soul that the port of BULI was a close cousin of BALI!

When we reached the port, I requested my husband to show me around. While I had been sulking about the port, the truth was, I just wanted to get off the ship. Apparently, I suffered from the worst category of sea sickness which I found out, when we started sailing from Vishakhapatnam. I had been puking all along and was relieved, the moment the ship anchored near the port. BULI or BALI, I did not care. I just wanted to go out and set my foot on land.

My husband isn’t a workaholic, but he takes his job seriously when at it. Even in those days when I was with him, he didn’t really feel comfortable in taking permission to get down for sightseeing. He tried convincing me that it wasn’t a very touristy place and that I should try visualizing a remote village of India, as it was pretty much the same.

But I had badgered him enough by then. An unrelenting wife can be quite a handful. So, he took leave for a few hours, and we got off the ship. The company’s agent arranged for a transport from the port to the inside of the so-called city. Now this transit was to happen in two parts. One car would take us from the port to a bus stop (a landmark of sorts), situated at the outskirts of the city and then another van would pick us up from there to the inside of the city.

The moment I got off the ship I pulled out my new Digicam, the latest one that Sony had rolled out those days. It was the first thing I had bought as part of my sailing trousseau. I vividly remember how I instructed my husband to click several photographs of mine posing amidst the ocean facing huts, in an angle that bore faint resemblance to those famous and fancy Maldivian over water bungalows, standing above the gentle and scenic waves of the shallow waters.

I was treating it like an extended honeymoon. Husband was happy to oblige. Most men do, in the first year of marriage!

Post that drama and my stupendous endeavor in making a fool out of myself, we were escorted by the agent to the vehicle and as per the original plan, dropped at the Bus stop. Somehow the second pick up vehicle was running late. So, we had to wait. There wasn’t much to explore except scanning the ambience around, while waiting for our pickup van. There was one all-girls school exactly opposite the bus stop.

As we waited at the bus stop, the school bell rang, indicating the school was over. Several young girls clad in a blue salwar suit and a white hijab scarf wrapped around their heads came out giggling from the school gate, towards the Bus stop. The moment they spotted us, a few of them started humming Teri meri, meri teri, prem kahani hai mushkil, a trending song from the movie Bodyguard. There in that foreign land, a few teenagers singing in the loudest decibel a Salman Khan song, only to garner our attention, and in the process appear bold underneath their coy demeanor, everything seemed pleasantly surreal.

Their bus arrived and the group left. A few of them were waving at us from the glass window of the back seat. I am assuming they were waving to both my husband and me, and not him alone!

That done, our pickup van also arrived. We were famished by then. The first place we searched for was a decent eating joint. That was again a tedious task. It was difficult to find a restaurant. After a lot of asking around we found ourselves one. It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, but our stomachs were growling by then and we just wanted some food, any food that could curb our hunger.

The food arrived after much ado. We ate and signaled for the bill. The bill amount was a whopping 2 lac. Now the Indonesian Rupee is of course quite devalued in comparison to the Indian Rupee. The amount we would be paying in INR was less than 1000 Rupees. I knew this then, but it was the first time that I had seen any food bill in lacs. We laughed out loud and thought we should take a picture of this, just for remembrance’s sake. I put my hand in my purse to pull out the Digicam. Lo and behold! My hands fumbled but couldn’t find the camera anywhere. I literally emptied the contents of the purse on the table. My Sony Digicam was not there. It was missing.

I freaked out and started cursing myself for planning the port visit. How would I share with everyone back at home, my pictures? The loss of photographs seemed bigger than the loss of the digicam. My husband tried to cheer me up by suggesting we explore the market around and do some shopping. I didn’t have any other option, so I agreed. We strolled on those cramped and dismal streets. Post a couple of hours of mindless shopping and street hopping we decided to go back to the ship for dinner. My mind was preoccupied and agitated. I was still processing that my Camera was stolen from my purse. In my mind I was blaming the school it.

Our van dropped us at the Bus-stop, and we eagerly awaited our hitch. The sight of the Bus stop was making me anxious. I looked around, searched the surrounding area, the seats at the bus stop, in a bid to soothe my aching heart. It was not there. How could it be? Those girls had vanished with it. I was raging on the inside. “While we were enjoying their silly rendition of a Salman Khan song, they had smartly walked away with my Camera! Only if I could get a glimpse of them again, I would surely teach them a lesson”, I mumbled under my breath.

It was then that a young boy walked up to us. He mumbled something in his language . My husband started talking to him in sign language. Within few seconds of this peaceful conversation, my husband said, “He is saying, he knows where our camera is. I think we should go with him. He lives close by.”

I wasn’t convinced. On the contrary, I was skeptical about the boy’s intentions, considering we were not in India. All our lives we have been told never trust a stranger, that there is a big bad world out there. I insisted we ignore the boy. But then our driver, who had arrived by then, assured us that he would accompany us. He also told us that the area the boy was referring to, was a peaceful residential area. Once he validated the boy’s whereabouts, the 3 of us followed him into that residential colony. After crossing some 5/6 lanes, the boy stopped outside a cozy little house with a nice Veranda. He signaled us to wait in the Veranda. A few moments later a middle aged lady came out. Fully clad in a Pathani suit and a Hijab scarf, she pulled out my Digicam from her pocket and flashed it out to us. We couldn’t fully comprehend her language, but her eyes were clearly asking us, “Is this what you are looking for?”.

My lips broke into a big smile at the glimpse of the camera. I nodded in excitement. When I had first bought the camera, I was happy. But that day, I was much happier. That lady then spoke a few sentences in haste and tried to explain the meaning through the gestures. Our driver translated her words to us, “When you got into the car at the bus stop, your purse was open, and the camera fell from it. My son was standing at a distance and saw that. But before he could reach out to you, your car left. He came back home with the camera and gave it to me. I had instructed him to keep an eye on the Bus Stop. In case you came back, he was to bring you to me. I had kept it safely. Something in me said that you would come back, and I am supposed to be its caretaker till that happens.”

I choked looking into the beauty of her eyes, as soon as I heard the words. I felt guilty beyond measure for my ill-informed emotions. I felt ashamed of myself for the negative thoughts I had harbored against those young girls within a span of few hours. And within the same span of few hours another human being for whom I was practically a nobody, had felt morally obligated to take care of my belonging. If she hadn’t instructed her son to keep a continuous watch on the Bus Stop, would I ever have known what happened with the Digicam? Never. Would I leave the place with good vibes? Never. I would have gone back and narrated to every other person I met, that those girls were thieves. That the world is full of creeps and vile people. And of course, that would have been validation enough that the world truly is a big bad place.

But somewhere in a foreign land, a stranger had been planted by God to change my perspective.

Our perspectives are nothing but a culmination of what information we have been fed vis a viz our own real-life experiences and the impressions that close ones and sometimes strangers leave on us. And that lady, a perfect stranger changed mine. I realized that the world isn’t such a bad place after all. I learnt that the chances of meeting good people are slightly more than the bad ones. And that the first step in creating more goodness in the world starts with us and our thoughts. We can only exude what we believe in. We can act only as good as our beliefs. Isn’t it?

I once read a book The forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. There was a particular paragraph that deeply moved me and somehow made a connect with me, made sense to me. Sharing it with you:

“Did you know that Shams says the world is a huge cauldron and something big is cooking in it? We don’t know what yet. Everything we do, feel, or think is an ingredient in that mixture. We need to ask ourselves what we are adding to the cauldron. Are we adding resentments, animosities, anger, and violence? Or are we adding love and harmony?”

A stranger bestowed me with a perspective. Today I am putting in some positive perspective, in the world’s big hot cauldron, with the hope that you too, will do the same. Believe in the goodness. Become the good. The bad will automatically be taken care of.


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